PLYMOUTH, N.H. - Plymouth State College's men's basketball team made 10 straight free throws in the final 57 seconds Friday night and held off Eastern Connecticut State University, 97-90, in the semi-finals of the Little East Conference Tournament at Foley Gymnasium.
With the victory, the top-seeded Panthers advance to the tournament final Saturday at 3:00 p.m. at Foley Gymnasium against third-seeded Western Connecticut, a 95-78 upset winner over Keene State in the other semi-final. The winner of Saturday's final receives an automatic bid to the Division III NCAA Tournament.
Senior Adam DeChristopher (Brockton, MA) scored a team-high 24 points and grabbed nine rebounds, connecting on six-of-nine three pointers, but scored his last points with 12 minutes remaining and fouled out with 1:32 to play. DeChristopher has 1,999 career points heading into Saturday's final.
"We found a way to win a crazy game," said PSC head coach Jim Ferry. "There were a lot of crazy things out there tonight, but we did whatever it takes to win the ball game. Eastern Connecticut gave us everything we could handle."
All five Panther starters scored in double figures, although four Panthers fouled out. Senior Todd Steffanides (Fitchburg, MA) scored 16 points before receiving his fifth foul, and classmate Eric McQueen (Lawrence, MA) added 15 points. Sophomore Tony Martinez (Barnstead, NH) contributed 14 points and six rebounds, and senior Jamal Pettiford-Jones (Portsmouth, NH) registered 14 points and eight boards.
The Warriors were led by freshman Rich Vega (Hartford, CT), who topped all scorers with 29 points. Senior Rich Martin (Bridgeport, CT) scored 20 points and pulled down a game-high 13 rebounds, junior Jay Wetherell (Milford, CT) contributed 19 points, and classmate Tom Gostomski (Meriden, CT) chipped in with 10 points off the Warriors bench.
Plymouth State led by 16 points late in the first half, but the Warriors cut the deficit to 39-31 by the intermission. PSC held the lead the entire second half, leading by as much as 15 points with 3:38 to play (79-64), but ECSU put on a rally, cutting PSC's lead to three (93-90), on a Vega three-pointer with 20 seconds left. But the Warriors ran out of time.
The Panthers are looking for their first LEC Tournament title, and their first trip to the NCAA Tourney since 1996. Western Connecticut is looking to win the LEC Tourney for the first time since winning it in 1996.
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