PLYMOUTH, N.H. - Three players combined to score 70 of Plymouth State College's 97 points Wednesday night as the fourth-seeded Panthers eliminated fifth-seeded Roger Williams University, 97-70, in the opening round of the 2002 ECAC New England Men's Basketball Tournament at Foley Gymnasium.
The win advances PSC to a semi-final contest Saturday at 2:00 p.m. at top-seeded Keene State, setting up the fourth encounter this season between the two Granite State rivals. The Owls bounced eighth-seeded Fitchburg State Wednesday, 106-90. Second-seeded Salve Regina, which defeated Johnson & Wales, 83-76, hosts third-seeded UMass Dartmouth, an 89-74 winner over Gordon, in Saturday's other semifinal. The championship game is Sunday at the site of the highest remaining seed.
Plymouth State improves to 17-10 on the season, while RWU completes its season at 16-11. Roger Williams overcame an 11-point first half deficit (20-9) with a 24-7 run that put the Hawks up by six (33-27) with 5:40 to play. PSC responded with a 16-6 run to take a 43-39 lead into the intermission. The Panthers made it a double-digit advantage (53-43) three minutes into the second half and extended it to 20 points (73-53) with 10 minutes on the clock before coasting home with the triumph. Sophomore Frankie Finklea (Dorchester, Mass.) scored a career-high 29 points to lead PSC, hitting 10-of-17 from the field, including 6-of-11 from three-point range. Senior Jason Blackburn (Hudson, Mass.) contributed 23 points (on 10-of-18 shooting) and a team-high six rebounds, while junior Donnelle Combs (Mitchellville, Md.) added a season-high 18 points.
The Hawks had four players score in double figures - sophomore Kamran Alemdar (Stockholm, Sweden) with 22 points, classmate Chris Staab (Allendale, N.J.) with 13, senior Ryan Kelly (Schuyler Lake, N.Y.) with 12 points and 10 rebounds, and freshman Kevin Flaherty (Basking Ridge, N.J.) with 11 points.
The Panthers will be looking for their first victory this season in four tries against Keene State. The Owls knocked off the Panthers 90-77 on Jan. 22nd in Plymouth, 83-64 on Feb. 12th in Keene, and 67-62 last Friday in Keene in the semifinals of the Little East Conference Tournament.