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Panthers hold off Southern Maine

PLYMOUTH, N.H. - Plymouth State College used a 17-2 run in the second half Tuesday night, turning a nine-point deficit into a six-point advantage, and the Panthers went on to post a 72-71 victory over the University of Southern Maine in a Little East Conference men's basketball game at Foley Gymnasium.

Junior Donnelle Combs (Mitchellville, Md.) gave PSC a 72-71 lead with a lay-up with over a minute and a half to play. Both teams had chances score again, but neither was able. The Huskies had the ball on an out of bounds play with five seconds remaining, but two final shots, as the clock wound down, rolled off the rim.

The win improves PSC to 12-8 overall and 6-5 in conference play, while USM drops to 9-13 and 3-8. The Panthers had defeated the Huskies earlier this season, 89-79.

 Southern Maine overcame an eight-point first-half deficit, battling back to take a 41-39 lead at the break. The Huskies increased their lead to nine points (57-48) midway through the second half before PSC called for a timeout. PSC held USM to just two points over the next five minutes while the Panthers were scoring 17. Southern Maine hung in until the final buzzer, but couldn't pull off the upset.

Plymouth State used its standard balanced offensive attack. Senior Jason Blackburn (Hudson, Mass.) led the hosts with 15 points, while Combs finished with 14 points and a game-high 11 rebounds. Sophomore Frankie Finklea (Dorchester, Mass.) added 12 points, and sophomore Mike Loughlin (Manchester, N.H.) chipped in with 10.

Blackburn inched closer to the magic 1,000-point milestone in a Panther uniform. The senior captain now has 988 career points, needing only 12 to become the 17th men's player in school history to reach the barrier.

The Huskies also had a balanced offense, with freshman Derek Lovely (Oxford, Maine) finishing with 14 points, classmate Ryan Garland (Hermon, Maine) adding 13, and junior Ryan Thomas (Hampden, Maine) tossing in 10.

The Panthers are back in action Thursday with a non-conference affair at the University of New England (5:30 p.m.).