DANBURY, Conn. - The Western Connecticut State University men's basketball team advanced to its ninth NCAA Division III Men's Basketball Championships following its 65-63 victory over Plymouth State College in the championship game of the Little East Conference Tournament at the O'Neill Center Saturday afternoon.
Western Connecticut junior Marvin Evans (Stratford, Conn.) was named Tournament Most Outstanding Player after hitting the game-winning basket, a short jumper in the lane, with 3.3 seconds remaining in the contest. Evans finished the game with 12 points and seven rebounds. He scored 27 points and collected 13 boards in the Colonials' 77-74 semifinal win over UMass Dartmouth on Friday night. For the weekend, Evans connected on 15 of 21 shot from the floor.
After the two teams were deadlocked at 32-32 at intermission, there were three ties and four lead changes before Casey Bock (Danbury, Conn.) buried a three pointer from the top of the key to put the Colonials up for good, 46-45 with 12:08 remaining in the game.
Western Connecticut's lead would get as high as six points, 59-53 with 6:45 left on a lay up by freshman forward Jason Barnett (Windsor, Conn.).
Plymouth State, 21-7, would score 10 of the next 14 points in the game to knot the game at 63-63. Sophomore guard Nick Pelotte (Bingham, Maine) converted the free throw for a traditional three-point play with 40 remaining for the Panthers.
Pelotte had a clear attempt at a game-winning 25 footer that bounded off the back of the iron as the final buzzer sounded. He finished the game with 13 points, second to Anthony Oglesby's (Brooklyn, NY) team-high 14 markers. Junior Mike Loughlin (Manchester, N.H./West) and freshman J.J. Truman (Enfield, N.H.) added 12 and 10 points for the Panthers, respectively.
Western Connecticut, 19-8, was led by sophomore Jay Reginatto's (Torrington, Conn.) 15 points. Bock and Andoni Alberdi (Windsor, CT) each added 10 points for the winners.
The Colonials, winners of the LEC regular-season title for the first time this season and their fourth LEC post-season affair, will be making their first back-to-back appearance in the NCAA Tournament in 11 years.
Plymouth State was making its second appearance in the LEC Championship game. The Colonials won the 1999 LEC championship game 92-60 at PSC's Foley Gymnasium.
The 2003 NCAA Division III National Tournament begins on Thursday, March 6. Pairing and sites will be determined on Sunday evening.
PSC awaits a possible ECAC New England Tournament selection, which will be announced Monday. The Panthers are defending ECAC finalists.
(Courtesy WCSU Sports Information)