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Panthers drop LEC semi-final at UMD

NORTH DARTMOUTH, Mass. - Top-seeded UMass Dartmouth earned a spot in the Little East Conference Men's Basketball Tournament championship game with a 75-60 semi-final victory over fourth-seeded Plymouth State College Friday night at the Tripp Center.

The Corsairs (23-2), will take on #2 Keene State College (17-8) in Saturday's LEC title game at 3 p.m. KSC defeated #3 Western Connecticut in the other semi-final. The LEC champion earns an automatic berth into the NCAA Division III Tournament, which begins next week.

Holding a slim 27-24 edge at halftime, the Corsairs, ranked #2 in the most recent Division III National Basketball Coaches Association Poll and #1 in the Northeast region, blew open a tight game by outscoring the Panthers 48-36 in the second half.

Senior co-captain Marques Houtman scored 20 points to lead UMass Dartmouth, the 12-time LEC regular season champions, Brian Cagle added 14 points and senior co-captains Frank Barrows and Nick Cecilio contributed 13 and 12 points, respectively.

Senior Tony Martinez (Barnstead, N.H.) led all scorers with a game-high 23 points for PSC. Junior Jason Blackburn (Hudson, Mass.) was the only other Panther to reach double figures with 15 points.

After shooting just 29 percent in the first half, PSC rebounded to hit 50 percent in the second half (39% for the game). UMD shot only 28 percent in the first half and 48 percent in the second half (38% for the game), but outrebounded the Panthers, 49-39.

Plymouth State, 14-12 overall, now hopes for an ECAC New England Tournament berth, which will be announced Monday.