Johnson, Preston lead Panthers to LEC win, home playoff game
PLYMOUTH, N.H. – Senior Ernie Johnson (Springfield, Mass.) scored a team-high 20 points and classmate Jack Preston (Nashua, N.H.) posted a double-double to lead Plymouth State University to a 72-63 win over Western Connecticut State University in a Little East Conference (LEC) men's basketball game on Senior Day at Foley Gymnasium.
The victory moves the Panthers to an even 12-12 on the season and 6-8 in LEC games, while WCSU drops its sixth straight to fall to 12-12 (4-10 LEC). With the win Plymouth State clinches the fourth seed in next week's LEC Tournament affording PSU its first home playoff game since the 2008-09 season.
The Panthers will welcome the five-seed, UMass Boston, on Tuesday (Feb. 21) with game time to be determined. The two teams split the season series, with each team winning on the other's home court. UMB outlasted PSU, 94-90 in a double overtime game at Foley Gymnasium on January 11, with the Panthers besting the Beacons 67-52 in Boston last week. WCSU will travel to in-state rival and top-seeded Eastern Connecticut for its quarterfinal game also on Tuesday.
Plymouth State roared out of the gates, building a double-digit lead in the opening three minutes. Junior Collin Sullivan (Plymouth, N.H.) gave the hosts their biggest lead of the game, 22-10, after connecting from deep midway through the opening half.
Although PSU would lead from start to finish the Colonials chipped away and kept things close throughout the second half. A 7-0 spurt by the visitors cut the margin to 47-46 with 13 minutes to play but PSU maintained control.
WCSU trailed by two, 53-51, with 7:24 to go but were unable to get any closer. Johnson and Preston scored back-to-back baskets and a triple from senior Curtis Arsenault (Berlin, N.H.) put the hosts up 60-53 with less than five minutes to play. The Panthers were able to close out the win at the free throw line, hitting on 9-of-11 attempts in the final four minutes.
Prior to the game Plymouth State honored its six seniors for their contributions to the program; Nathan Clarke (Reading, Mass.), Nick MacGregor (Rochester, N.H.), Johnson, Arsenault, Preston and manager Jason Torres.
Foley Gymnasium, Plymouth, N.H. – Sat., Feb. 18, 2017 – "Senior Day"
Plymouth State 72, Western Connecticut 63
Plymouth State 12-12 (6-8 LEC); Western Connecticut 12-12 (4-10 LEC)
|PSU men's basketball seniors and family members|
* Johnson … team-high 20 points, three rebounds, two steals, two assists
* Preston … 18 points (seven-of-nine), 10 rebounds
* Arsenault … 13 points (three-of-four 3PT), seven rebounds, three steals, three assists
* Freshman Jaylen Leroy (Manchester, N.H.) … nine points, two rebounds
* Sophomore Jauch Green (Hartford, Conn.) … game-high 21 points, seven rebounds, three steals
* Junior Marcus Brown (New Haven, Conn.) … 19 points, two steals
* Sophomore Rashard Rodriguez (Trumbull, Conn.) … 11 points, five rebounds
* Senior Tre'Von Perry (Waterbury, Conn.) … six points, six rebounds, three steals
BY THE NUMBERS
* The Panthers finished 26-of-55 (47.3%) from the floor, while WCSU made 25-of-59 shots (42.4%).
* Each team connected seven times from beyond the arc.
* Although each team forced 22 turnovers PSU was able to convert those into 22 points while the Colonials scored just 11.
HOW IT HAPPENED
* PSU came out on fire building an 11-1 lead in the game's first three minutes. Johnson had five points in the stretch.
* Rodriguez connected from beyond the arc for the Colonials to cut the deficit to 17-8, but moments later Sullivan gave the Panthers their biggest lead of the game, 22-10, midway through the opening half.
* Green got Western Connecticut back into the game, scoring eight straight points to cut the margin to 22-18 with just under six minutes left in the half.
* Two minutes later a three from Brown made it a two-point margin, 27-25, but the Panthers answered with a 9-3 spurt to close the half.
* Arsenault's triple gave the hosts a 36-28 lead at the break.
* PSU maintained the lead through the first five minutes of the second half, but WCSU started to chip away. Brown connected from long range again then sophomore Dimitrios Tsesmetzis (Hopewell Junction, N.Y.) had consecutive baskets to cut it to a one point game, 47-46.
* Sophomore Mike Osgood (Nashua, N.H.) answered with a jumper for PSU and Preston connected twice from the charity stripe to extend the hosts' lead to 51-46 midway through the second half.
* Johnson got by his man with a filthy crossover then finished at the rim to put the hosts up 55-51 with 7:04 remaining.
* Green's layup cut the deficit to 67-60 with 1:35 to play, but after a Panther turnover Arsenault drew an offensive foul and Johnson sank two from the charity stripe to push the lead back to nine.
* The Colonials wouldn't get any closer than seven points the rest of the way.
* PSU will play its first playoff game at home in eight years on Tuesday. The Panthers will face UMass Boston with game time to be determined.
* Western Connecticut will face Eastern Connecticut in its quarterfinal game also on Tuesday.
Senior Jason Torres performs during halftime on Senior Day
Feb 18, 2017
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