Upset-minded Panthers fall just short at buzzer
WILLILMANTIC, Conn. – Sophomore Joe Ives (Avon, Conn.) scored a career-high 17 points – sinking four of the team’s eight three-point field goals -- as the third-seeded Eastern Connecticut State University men’s basketball team erased a 13-point second-half deficit for a 59-58 first-round victory over sixth-seeded Plymouth State University in the opening round of the Little East Conference Tournament Tuesday evening at Francis E. Geissler Gymnasium.
Eastern (18-8) advances to the tournament semifinals Friday at 8 p.m., and for the second straight year, will face Western Connecticut State University in the tournament semifinals at Rhode Island College. Second-seeded Western and top-seeded and defending champion Rhode Island College drew first-round byes. Plymouth State completes its season at11-14.
Neither team scored in the game again after junior Hamilton Levy (Woodbury, Conn.) swished the second of a two-shot foul (his only point of the game) to give Eastern a 59-58 lead with 2:03 left. The Warriors came up with two key defensive plays in the final 73 seconds to defeat PSU in the LEC tournament after three consecutive tourney losses since 1999.
With the Warriors leading by one, Levy drew a charging foul on Plymouth senior Ryan Lambert (Derry, N.H.) with 1:13 left, and junior Jamie Kohn (Columbia, Conn.) later preserved the victory when he stepped in front of a Plymouth player and stole a pass near the baseline as time expired.
Leading by a point with possession of the ball in the final 30 seconds, Eastern missed a jump shot that was rebounded by Plymouth senior center Bill Stowell (Stratham, N.H.) with 12 seconds left. Plymouth pushed the ball over half court before calling time out. The Panthers inbounded the ball, but Kohn picked off a pass in front of the Plymouth bench as time ran out.
Plymouth State capitalized on a number of easy baskets to build a seven-point, 32-25 lead at halftime, and Stowell capped a 10-4 run in the opening minutes of the second half that sent the Panthers to a 13-point, 42-29 lead.
Ives and junior Nick Nedwick (Irvington, N.Y.) then teamed for three consecutive three-point field goals that quickly put the Warriors back in contention. Ives nailed the first two off passes from Nedwick (completing a four-point play on the second one when he was fouled), and Nedwick made it 42-39 five minutes into the half on a pass from Ives.
Eastern trailed by five with just under five minutes left, but Nedwick banged a three-point from the left side on a pass from Levy and Kohn later sank two free throws and a jumper to give Eastern a one-point, 58-57 lead with 2:36 left.
Ives had five rebounds and three assists and just one turnover in 36 minutes to go along with his game and career-high 17 points. Kohn recorded his ninth double-double of the season with 11 points and a game-high 12 rebounds.
Lambert and classmate Matt Feehan (Nashua, N.H.) each scored 15 points for Plymouth State, and senior Tom Dowd (Portsmouth, NH) collected eight points and eight rebounds.
(Courtesy of Eastern Connecticut Sports Information)
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