WILLIMANTIC, CONN. 2/24/12 - For the second year in a row, the Keene State men's basketball team suffered a tough loss in the semifinal round of the LEC tournament, falling to top-seed Eastern Conn. State 81-76 at the Geissler Gymnasium in Willimantic, Conn. on Friday night. The Owls suffered the same fate last year, falling to Rhode Island College 102-92.
Keene State concludes its season with a 19-8 record. The Warriors (21-5), a first-time host of the tournament, move on the finals where they will face the winner between second seed Western Conn. and third seed Rhode Island College.
The Owls appeared to be in the driver's seat, taking its largest lead of the second half (52-45) on a jumper in the paint by freshman Tom Doyle (Wallingford, Conn.) with 7:25 to play. KSC still appeared in control when junior Ryan Martin (Wayne, Maine) found junior Nicco DeMasco (Richmond, N.H.) rolling to the hoop, putting them up 61-55 at the 2:10 mark.
But the Warriors battled back. Senior Jamie Kohn (Columbia, Conn.) hit a fall-away in the lane to cut the lead to 61-59 with 47 seconds to go.
Fouled on the inbounds play, Martin hit one of two free throws to make it 62-59. Senior Nick Nedwick (Irvington, N.Y.) tied the game with a three-pointer with 27.9 seconds left on the clock.
Both teams had chances to tie the game in the closing seconds. KSC had a couple of costly turnovers. ECSU had the ball with 2.7 seconds left, but couldn't get a shot off, sending the game into overtime.
In the first overtime, senior Chae Phillips hits a three-pointer to give Eastern a 69-66 lead with 52 seconds to go. Junior Rashad Wright (Agawam, Mass.) answered with a quick jump hoop to make it a 69-68 game.
Phillips was intentionally fouled. The strategy appeared to pay off when he missed both of his free throw shots. With the ball in his hand most of the possession, Martin pulled up and knocked down a three-pointer to give the Owls a 71-69 with eight seconds to play.
Junior Chris Robitaille (Canton, Conn.) sent the game into a second overtime when he hit a lay-up with 1.3 seconds to go.
Martin gave KSC its only lead in the second overtime with a jumper to make it 76-75. They wouldn't score another point.
Kohn hit one of two free throws to tie the game at 76-all and at the 1:36 mark, Robitaille connected on a put-back to give the Warriors a 78-76 lead.
Martin and Doyle both missed shots in the Owls' next possession. Robitaille was fouled in the rebound action, giving KSC a little life with 43.9 seconds to go. But costly turnovers by the Owls and a couple of free throws by the Warriors sealed the win for Eastern Conn.
Keene State had three players finish in double figures with Martin finishing with 26 points. Junior Anthony Mariano (Naugatuck, Conn.) scored 11 points and Wright finished with 10 points and nine rebounds. DeMasco had nine rebounds to go with seven points.
Nedwick had a game high 27 points for the Warriors while Kohn finished with 23 points and a game high 11 rebounds.
Eastern outrebounded the Owls, but had a significant 20-8 advantage on the offensive boards, constantly giving the Warriors second and third scoring opportunities.