Colonials hold off Panthers at the wire in dramatic quarterfinal
DANBURY, Conn. – Senior Derek McIntyre (Salem, Mass.) made one of two free throws with 1.7 seconds remaining in the game Tuesday evening to break a 60-60 tie and lift fourth-seeded Western Connecticut State University to a 61-60 victory over fifth-seeded Plymouth State University in the opening round of the Little East Conference Men's Basketball Tournament at Feldman Arena.
The Colonials, 17-8, advance to the semifinals of the tournament on Friday and a showdown with top-seeded Eastern Connecticut, 21-5.
After Western had taken a 60-59 lead with one minute remaining in the game on a jumper by junior Joe Groski (Danbury, Conn.), Plymouth State freshman Curtis Arsenault (Berlin, N.H.) converted one of two free throws with 17 seconds left to tie the score at 60-60. On Western's final possession, McIntyre rebounded a missed jumper taken by Groski and was fouled by Plymouth State as he attempted to put back the miss.
McIntyre converted the first free throw for a 61-60 Western lead with 1.7 seconds showing on the clock, prompting coach Bob Campbell to call timeout to set up the game-ending play. McIntyre then intentionally missed his second free throw, giving Plymouth State no chance at a last-second shot, and giving Western a 61-60 victory.
Scoring in double figures for Western were sophomore Phil Starks (Bloomfield, Conn.) with 14 points, Groski with 12 points and a game-high nine rebounds, and freshman Kendall Marquez (Willimantic, Conn.) with 11 points.
Senior Petey Skevas (Wethersfield, Conn.) and Arsenault each scored 17 points to lead Plymouth State. Freshman guard Ernie Johnson (Springfield, Mass.) added nine points off the Panther bench, a season high for the rookie.
Western went on an early 9-0 run for a 9-2 lead after three minutes. A jumper by Arsenault completed a 9-2 Plymouth State run to even the score at 11-11 at the 14:09 mark of the period. The Colonials responded by scoring the game's next seven points but Plymouth State fought back to take the lead at the 7:43 mark, 21-20, and still held a one-point lead three minutes later, 25-24. A 10-2 run by Western to close out the half gave the Colonials a 34-27 lead at intermission.
A Marquez 3-pointer gave Western a 10-point lead to start the second half, but Plymouth State slowly chipped away at the Colonial advantage. With Western still holding a seven-point lead, 45-38, Plymouth State went on a 9-0 run to take 47-45 lead with 11 minutes left in the game.
The final 10 minutes of the game saw six ties and three lead changes, with Plymouth State taking its final lead, 59-58, with 1:29 remaining after two Arsenault free throws. After Groski's jumper put Western up 60-59, another Arsenault free throw evened the score at 60-60, setting the stage for McIntyre's game-winner.
Plymouth State falls to 13-13, a six-game improvement over last season's 7-19 record. The Panthers are eligible for an ECAC New England Tournament post-season berth but would be a long shot with a .500 record.
(Courtesy of Western Connecticut Sports Information)
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