Keene holds off PSU in LEC Men’s Basketball Tourney

Panthers edged by rival Owls down the stretch

            KEENE, N.H. – The men's basketball rivalry between Keene State College and Plymouth State University was rekindled at Spaulding Gym on Tuesday night with the third ranked Owls holding on for a wild 74-68 victory over the sixth ranked Panthers  in a quarterfinal game of the Little East Conference tournament.

            Keene State (16-10), which snapped a two-game losing streak with the win, moves on to the semifinals where they will face second seed Eastern Conn. State in the second of the two semifinals games at Rhode Island College on Friday night  at 8 p.m. ESCU advanced with a 65-54 win over seventh seed Western Conn. State.  KSC lost to Eastern Conn. 81-76 (2-OT) in the semifinal round of the tournament last year.  Plymouth State winds up the season at 7-19.

            The game between KSC and PSU was decided in the final minutes of play.   KSC took a 69-66 lead with 1:49 to go on a reverse lay-up by freshman Tre'Tipton (Stamford, Conn.).  A 35 second shot violation by PSU gave the ball back to the Owls. However, KSC returned the favor on the inbounds play, giving the ball right back to the Panthers.  Turnaround is fair play. KSC freshman Nate Howard (Cheshire, Conn.) stole the ball, and after being fouled, connected on one of two free throws to make it 70-66 with 1:11 remaining. 

            Junior Petey Skevas (Wethersfield, Conn.) hit a couple of shots from the line for PSU to cut the lead to 70-68 with 54 seconds on the clock. After an Owl turnover, Skevas missed a lay-up, and sophomore Tom Doyle (Wallingford, Conn.) and Skevas both came down with the ball.  The possession arrow was pointing the Owls way, giving them back the ball. Fouled on the inbounds play, Doyle hit both his shots from the line, giving KSC a 72-68 lead with 13.7 seconds to go.

            Skevas had a chance to get PSU within two, but with the partisan Spaulding Gym crowd screaming from the stands, he missed both of his free throw attempts. Tipton pulled down the rebound. He was fouled and hit both his shots from the line to account for the final score.

            The game was a barn burner form the start.  Senior Kevin Eisenberg (Moultonborough, N.H.) scored nine of the Panthers first 11 points, including three baskets from behind the arc, helping Plymouth State jump out to an early 11-6 lead. Keene State opened up a 28-21 lead with 5:10 to go in the half.

            After Eisenberg made a conventional three-point play on a lay-up and free throw to cut the lead to 28-26, KSC went on an 11-3 run. Junior Jim Hepple (Newington, Conn.) capped off the uprising with a three-pointer from the right of the circle, putting the Owls up 39-29 with 33 seconds to go.

            Holding the ball for the final shot, Skevas hit a jumper in the closing seconds to make it a 39-31 game at the break.

            The Panthers scored the first seven points of the second half, cutting the lead to a point (39-38) on an old-fashion three-point play by Skevas.  Plymouth wasn't done.  A pair of three-pointers by sophomore Alex Burt (Dover, N.H.) sandwiched around a put-back by freshman Uche Nwokeji (Lynn, Mass.) gave PSC back the lead 51-47 at the 14:20 mark.

            Fouled after hitting a three-pointer, Martin completed the four-point play to put Keene State back on top 53-51. It was a nip-and tuck game the rest of way as both teams took turns holding the lead. After a steal, Tipton drained a three-pointer from the top of the key to put KSC up 65-62 at the 3:51 mark. That set the stage for the wild finish between the two teams.

            Burt led the Panthers with 17 points. Skevas scored 16 points and Nwokeji and Eisenberg each finished with 15 points.  Nowkejo and Skevas each had 15 points. 

(Courtesy of Keene State Sports Information) 

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