Panther men’s hoop claim NESCAC crown to host in NCAAs
MIDDLEBURY — After winning the NESCAC playoff title this past weekend at Tufts, the Middlebury College men’s basketball team will host an NCAA Division III Regional this Friday and Saturday as the program makes its eighth trip in 10 years to the NCAA tournament.
The 24-3 Panthers will face Farmingdale (N.Y.) State (20-7) at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, after Lycoming (23-4) and Cabrini (19-7) meet at 5:30 p.m. The winners will play on Saturday at 7 p.m.
Tickets for the Regional this weekend are $10 for adults and $5 for students and seniors and are available at 443-6433 or the McCullough Student Center or Center for the Arts box offices. Any remaining tickets will go on sale an hour before the first game each day.
At Tufts, which hosted the NESCAC final four because the Jumbo men earned the No. 1 seed, the No. 2 Panthers defeated No. 6 Williams in Sunday’s final, 84-62, and No. 5 Trinity, 76-60, in Saturday’s semifinal.
Defense keyed both wins: The Panthers’ 61 points-against average was 18 points lower than their overall NESCAC average, they held Williams to 22 points in Sunday’s second half, and Middlebury limited Trinity to 20 points in Saturday’s first half. Overall, Williams shot 35.1 percent from the floor, while Trinity converted at a 38.5 percent clip.
In Sunday’s 84-62 win, the Middlebury avenged one of its three losses, an 89-65 setback at Williams on Jan. 22. Since then, the Panthers, most recently ranked No. 9 in NCAA D-III, have won 11 straight.
Middlebury outscored the Ephs (19-8, also earning an NCAA bid) by 48-22 in the second half after Williams — which upset Tufts on Saturday — took a 40-36 halftime lead.
The Panthers opened the second half with a 16-0 run over the first 5:59 in which they forced three turnovers, dominated the boards, and saw Matt St. Amour score the final nine points. Williams went the first seven minutes of the half without a field goal as Middlebury took a 52-41 lead.
That lead soon grew to 17 (60-43) on a three by Matt Folger. Williams cut it to 12 (62-50) on a free throw from Kyle Scadlock at 9:32, but the Panthers got two hoops inside by Adisa Majors and one by Eric McCord for an 18-point advantage and were never threatened again.
St. Amour (five assists) and Jake Brown, returning from an ankle sprain, scored 20 points apiece. St. Amour hit five of nine from beyond the arc and became the first player in program history to convert 100 three-pointers in a single season with 103. He also reached 503 field goals for his career.
McCord and Majors finished with 10 points each, Nick Tarantino chipped in nine points and seven rebounds, and Folger had seven points and eight rebounds as the Panthers received efficient play from their frontcourt rotation and won the board battle, 47-35. Jack Daly added eight points, seven rebounds, nine assists and three steals. Daly moved into second place on the Middlebury single-season list with 164, trailing only Pat Casey’s total of 179 in 1992.
Kyle Scadlock led the Ephs with 24 points and 11 rebounds, and Daniel Aronowitz added 14 points.
On Saturday, the Panthers pulled away from Trinity (16-10) as the first half wore on to take a 35-20 lead at the break in their 76-60 win. Middlebury closed the half with a 16-8 run, including a Perry DeLorenzo three at the buzzer.
In the second half, the Bantams edged to within 42-3 on a Chris Turnbull three at 14:38. But over the next 4:37 Middlebury reeled off an 18-4 run for its largest lead at 23 (60-37). Folger had eight points during the surge, including a pair of threes. Afterward, Trinity came no closer than 13 points (71-58) at 2:27.
St. Amour led the Panthers with 18 points. Folger tied a career high with 11 points, while Majors had 11 and pulled down nine rebounds. Daly contributed 10 points, seven rebounds, three assists and three steals; Brown added nine points and four assists, and Tarantino recorded eight rebounds and six points. The Panthers held edges of 45-31 in rebounding and 31-8 in bench points.
Turnbull (23 points) and Eric Gendron (10) led the Bantams.
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