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Panthers hold off Southern Maine

GORHAM, Maine -- Sophomore forward Frankie Finklea (Dorchester, Mass.) scored a game-high 23 points, and was a perfect seven-of-seven from the foul line in the final four minutes as Pymouth State College posted an 89-79 Little East Conference men's basketball triumph Tuesday night at Warren G. Hill Gymnasium.

The Panthers jumped to a double-digit, first-half lead, but had to withstand a furious University of Southern Maine rally before finishing with the 10-point victory.

A pair of free throws by Finklea with 5:26 to play in the first half gave Plymouth State its largest lead of the game at 38-13. However, Southern Maine closed out the half with an 18-5 run to pull within 43-31 at the break.

Following the intermission, the Huskies continued to chip away at the deficit, and eventually tied the contest at 63-63 on a three-pointer by freshman guard Ryan Garland (Hermon, Maine) with 6:14 to play.

Plymouth State answered with four straight points, culminating with a basket by freshman guard Nick Pelotte (Bingham, Maine) to take a 67-63 lead with 4:48 to play. The teams traded baskets, and with 2:59 to play, Plymouth State held a 71-69 advantage.

However, when Southern Maine was unable to score over the next two minutes and seven seconds, the Huskies were forced to foul. The Panthers made 18 consecutive free throws over the final 2:13 before sophomore guard Mike Loughlin (Manchester, N.H.) missed the second end of a two-shot situation with seven seconds to play.

For the game, Plymouth State connected on a remarkable 37-42 free throws (.881), while it was 30-33 (.909) in the second half. The Panthers also enjoyed a decided advantage off the glass, where they outrebounded the Huskies 48-29.

Also registering double figures in points for the Panthers were senior center Jason Blackburn (Hudson, Mass.), who had 14 points, while Pelotte and sophomore center Ryan Chicoine (Gorham, Maine) added 13 points, and Loughlin contributed 10 points. Chicoine led all players with 13 boards.

The Huskies were paced by senior guard Geoff Grigsby (Bridgton, Maine), who scored 17 points, while freshman guard Mike Francoeur (Somersworth, N.H.) added 16 points, senior guard Jason St. Pierre (Bangor, Maine) had 15 points, and Garland added 10.

Plymouth State, which improved to 9-5 overall and 4-2 in the Little East, returns to action on Saturday when it travels to UMass Dartmouth, while Southern Maine, which fell to 6-9 and 2-4, is also in action on Saturday, travelling to Western Connecticut State University.