PLYMOUTH, N.H. - Winter and college basketball seasons keep coming and going, and head coach Paul Hogan just keeps putting out good basketball teams at Plymouth State College.
The 1997-98 squad was another in a long line of strong PSC men's basketball teams. Plymouth State shared the regular season championship of the Little East Conference, one of the toughest leagues in the nation. PSC was regularly ranked in the NCAA Division III Northeast poll, and the Panthers advanced to the post-season for the third straight year, participating in the ECAC Division III New England Tournament and completing the season at 19-8 overall.
"We're proud of what we accomplished this year," said Hogan, who has led PSC to a 136-80 record in his eight years. "You always want to win at least one more. We were so close to winning the Little East outright, we were pretty close to being in consideration for an NCAA berth, and we were close to advancing in the ECAC Tournament. You always want to win another one for your seniors, but we did have a nice season."
After finishing the regular season at 18-6 and upending Southern Maine in the first round of the Little East Tournament, PSC was two wins away from a second NCAA berth in three years. The next two games, however, turned not into a dream but a Panther heartbreak. Plymouth State was outrun and outgunned by Keene State in the LEC semi-finals, and was eliminated from the ECAC tourney in the first-round at Colby-Sawyer.
"I think maybe we were a little tired," said Hogan. "We won some difficult road games this year, and played a tough schedule, and we were a bit worn down. Maybe things would've been different if the games were at home, but we gave it everything we had, and I'm proud of them for that."
While Hogan used a basic nine-man rotation much of the season, and five different players received individual honors this season, the Panthers were led by junior point guard Adam DeChristopher (Brockton, MA) and senior forward Ace Elefteriadis (Belmont, MA).
DeChristopher, the Little East Conference Player of the Year and a First Team All-New England pick by the ECAC, was the key to the offense, averaging 19.3 points, 4.9 rebounds and 3.5 assists. He led PSC in scoring 17 times, and was solid from the field (44.5 percent), three-point range (70-of-187, .374) and the free throw line (81.0 percent).
Elefteriadis, who averaged 15.8 points per game, was a scoring threat from all over the floor. He could battle down low, where he hauled in 6.1 rebounds, or form outside, where he hit 60-of-168 three-pointers (35.7 perent).
"Adam has shown he is one of the top players in the league, and he is being recognized for it," said Hogan. "He is the heart of our offense, and he has so many ways he can hurt you.....penetrating, shooting, at the line, defensively. He's had a terrific three years, and I'm looking forward to his senior year."
"Ace has been a tremendous leader for this team," said Hogan. "He leads not only on the floor but in the locker room. He's just what you want in a captain. He knows when to push guys and when to come to me. Guys like Ace and Seth are the reasons why we coach college basketball."
Senior Seth Peloso (Rye, NH) shared co-captain dutied with Elefteriadis. After a strong junior season, Peloso was hit with injuries this year and was limited to 22 games. The team's best defender and an outside shooting threat, Peloso was MVP of the PSC Tip-Off Tournament.
"Seth's value to the team wasn't the same as if he'd been healthy," said Hogan, "But he was a big contributor to this team. We wouldn't have gone as far as we did without him."
Senior Doug Stokes (Wyckoff, NJ), a transfer from the College of New Jersey, was a big addition to the Panther frontcourt. He brought with him 10.5 points and 7.1 rebounds and a solid inside presence, and was the LEC Player of the Week with a monster week in February. He shot 61.7 percent from the floor and 72.5 percent from the line.
Junior Eric McQueen (Lawrence, MA) and sophomore Jamodi Robinson (Framingham, MA) were big contributors to the team. McQueen, perhaps the team's best athlete, was an honorable mention on the All-LEC Team after averaging 11.1 points and 2.6 rebounds a game. He is a real crowd-pleaser with his dunking ability, and could really blossom as a senior. Robinson transferred to PSC from Albany State, and chipped in with solid defense and 5.7 points per game.
Coming off the bench for PSC was junior Jamal Pettiford-Jones (Portsmouth, NH) and freshman Tony Martinez (Pittsfield, NH) in the frontcourt, and junior Todd Steffanides (Fitchburg, MA) in the backcourt. Pettiford-Jones continued his improvement, adding four points and four rebounds a game, while Martinez gained valuable experience at power forward, playing in all 27 games and averaging 4.5 points. Steffanides saw his minutes increase as his performance improved, and he's up to nearly four points in 14 minutes per outing.
Hogan was fortunate to have plenty of depth on the bench. Young players fighting for playing time included freshman center Ryan Bishop (Cohasset, MA), sophomore center Jay Capone (Kingswood, NH), sophomore guards Keith Fiore (Somers, NY) and Eban Delano (North Conway, NH), freshmen forwards Matt Hobert (Holyoke, MA) and Warren Ostler (Morrisville, VT), and freshman guard Bobby Corcione (Cambridge, MA).
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