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Panthers win opener at Babson Tournament

WELLESLEY, Mass. - Five players scored in double figures Friday evening as Plymouth State College's men's basketball team opened the season with a 73-63 victory over Worcester State College in the opening round of the Babson Invitational Tournament at Staake Gymnasium.

The Panthers will face host Babson Saturday at 4:00 p.m. in the championship game. The Beavers coasted past Johnson & Wales University in Friday's other first-rounder, 83-47.

PSC built a commanding 17-point lead early in the second half, and then fended off a late Worcester State charge to hold on for the victory. Senior tri-captain Jason Blackburn (Hudson, Mass.) and sophomore Frankie Finklea (Dorchester, Mass.) and each scored a team-high 15 points for the Panthers, with Blackburn grabbing 11 rebounds. Junior Donnelle Combs (Mitchellville, Md.) contributed 12 points and seven rebounds off the bench, and guards Kenny Stewart (Londonderry, N.H.) and Mike Loughlin (Manchester, NH/West) added 11 and 10 points, respectively.

The Lancers were led by senior tri-captain Tom Espinosa (Putnam, Conn.) and junior Rob Phillipo (Oxford, Mass.), who each recorded double-doubles. Espinoza had 26 points and 10 rebounds and Phillipo was good for 21 points and 11 boards.

Worcester State had a 54-40 advantage in rebounding but the PSC defense held the Lancers to a 27 percent shooting percentage.

Babson took a 23-point lead into halftime on its way to the convincing win over Johnson & Wales in the nightcap. Sophomore Jeff Hines (Waltham, Mass.) scored 13 of his team-high 18 points in the opening half to give Babson a 45-22 advantage at the break. Freshman Phil Riffe (Newton, Mass.) scored 13 second-half points to match Hines' total of 18, while junior Chris Michalowski (Bristol, Conn.) dished out a game-high seven assists.

(Courtesy Babson Sports Information)