WILLIMANTIC, Conn. - So much for pre-season coaches' polls.
The Plymouth State College men's basketball team, picked by the Little East Conference coaches to finish sixth in this year's race, stunned pre-season favorite Eastern Connecticut State University Saturday afternoon at Geissler Gymnasium, 81-77, in the LEC opener for both schools.
The Panthers rebound from their first loss of the season Thursday night to perennial New England power Salem State, to improve to 4-1 overall under first-year head coach John Scheinman. Eastern Conn. drops to 3-3.
The Warriors took a 41-34 halftime lead, but this was anyone's game most of the second half. The teams were tied at 69-69 with five minutes remaining, and 76-all with 1:50 to play.
PSC freshman Dan Craig (Chelmsford, Mass.) canned a pair of free throws and senior JaModi Robinson (Framingham, Mass.) hit a runner in the lane to give the Panthers an 80-76 advantage with 36 seconds remaining. ECSU's Ronell John (Corona, NY) and PSC's Shannon Gallagher (Plymouth, NH) traded free throws in the final 29 seconds, but the Warriors were unable to sink any field goals down the stretch, and the Panthers held on for the win.
Junior Tony Martinez (Barnstead, NH) turned in another strong performance for the Panthers down low. He scored a team-high 18 points and grabbed seven rebounds, hitting 7-of-15 shots from the floor. Martinez has led PSC in scoring in all five contests this season.
PSC also got 15 points, 10 rebounds and five assists from Gallagher, and 14 points from Robinson. The Panthers shot 52 percent from the field, while holding ECSU to 39 percent shooting. The Warriors also struggled at the line, making only eight of 20 tries.
Gallagher, who entered the game four points shy of 1,000 for his career, wasted little time in reaching the milestone. He canned a pair of three-pointers in the opening two minutes of the contest to put him over the mark. Gallagher scored 699 points for Norwich University from 1995-97, and has now added 312 in a Panther uniform.
PSC returns to action Tuesday (Dec. 7) with a non-conference encounter at Rivier College (7:00 p.m.). The Raiders are coached by former PSC player and assistant coach Dave Morissette.
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