PLYMOUTH, N.H. - Seniors Mike Chergey (Bow, N.H.) and Jason O'Keefe (Everett, Mass.) combined for 23 points Saturday afternoon as the Plymouth State University men's basketball team upset Little East Conference-leading Rhode Island College, 62-60, at Foley Gymnasium.
The Panthers took the lead for good in the first few minutes of the game and built a 10-point second-half lead but had to fight off a furious Anchorman comeback to preserve the victory. PSU won its fourth in a row to improve to 10-5 overall and 3-2 in LEC games. RIC, defending LEC regular season champions and an NCAA Tournament participant the past three years, had its four-game winning streak stopped and fell to 9-5 overall and 4-1 in conference play.
Chergey finished with a team-high 12 points, seven rebounds and four assists for the Panthers, while O'Keefe finished with 11 points and four assists. They were the only two Panthers to score in double figures. The Panther seniors also both got to within striking distance of the 1,000-point milestone for their careers; O'Keefe ended the day with 991 points and Chergey is right behind with 988.
Sophomore Mason Choice (Newport, R.I.) led all scorers with 15 points for the Anchormen. Junior Nick Manson (Newport, R.I.) and senior Jake Grimes (Providence, R.I.) added 12 points apiece for the visitors and junior Darius Debnam (Dorchester, Mass.) chipped in with eight points and a game-high 10 rebounds.
The two teams displayed strong defense in the first half, with both squads shooting just 37 percent from the floor. PSU had its highest lead at nine points (20-11) with nine minutes on the clock, and it was a five-point Panther margin (27-22) at the break.
The second half was a different story, with both teams shooting over 50 percent. RIC got the deficit down to one point (32-31) with 15 minutes to play, but PSU rallied to go up by 10 points (51-41) with five minutes remaining and again (55-45) with four minutes to go. The visitors wouldn't go quietly, going on a 13-5 run over the next three minutes, pulling to within two points (60-58) with less than 30 seconds remaining.
Junior Matt Feehan (Nashua, N.H./South) and O'Keefe each made 1-of-2 free throws down the stretch to help seal the victory. Grimes made a late bucket for RIC to make it a one-possession game in the final 10 seconds but the Anchormen couldn't get the tying hoop. The visitors finished with a 34-27 rebounding advantage, and the home team struggled at the free throw line, making less than 50 percent (9-of-20) in the game.
Both teams continue with LEC action on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m., PSU traveling to the University of Southern Maine and RIC visiting Western Connecticut State University.
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