BENNINGTON, Vt.- The Becker College men's basketball team advanced to the New England Collegiate Conference Championship with an 88-79 win over Elms College on Friday evening.
With the score tied 10-10 in the early-going of the nightcap, Becker took to an 11-2 run that gave the Hawks a lead they would never relinquish. Becker brought a 40-28 upper hand into the intermission before holding off the Blazers in the final 20 minutes to close out the victory.
Becker improves to 17-10 on the year while Elms falls to 14-12 with the loss.
All five Hawk starters reached double figures in the points column, being led by junior Kyle Credle (Queens, N.Y.) who tallied 18 points to go with his seven rebounds and game-best four assists. Becker senior Rashaun Liggon (Elizabeth, N.J.) followed with 16 points while grabbing nine boards and dishing out three assists, and freshman Kareem Davis (Lowell, Mass.) had another 16 points in the win. Sophomore Samuel Durodola (Rosedale, N.Y.) registered 15 points and a team-best 10 rebounds for his 13th double-double of the season, and junior Reginald Finney (Ansonia, Conn.) chipped in with 12 points.
Elms senior Jerry Buchanon (Windsor, Conn.) notched a game-high 22 points while adding six rebounds and three assists to his line. Sophomore Devonte Marshall (Springfield, Mass.) had 18 points and six boards, and junior Symon Smith (Oklahoma City, Okla.) scored 16 points on the night. Blazer sophomore Conny Ihearahu (Largo, Md.) recorded 11 points while grabbing a game-high 15 rebounds for the double-double.
Becker shot at 46.7 percent (28-60) from the floor as EC connected on 38.3 percent (31-81) of its field goal attempts. Becker grabbed a slim 48-41 edge on the boards and topped Elms 10-9 in second-chance points. The Blazers committed only five turnovers on the night to outscore the Hawks 13-4 in points off turnovers, and EC had a 46-30 advantage in points from the paint.
Neither side could pull away as the contest began, Finney banking home a jumper for a 10-8 Hawk lead before Ihearahu answered on the next trip down the floor to tie things. Becker would then take to an 11-2 run, however, Durodola making an acrobatic, scooping shot in that stretch for Becker to go up comfortably. Davis then knocked down a three-pointer from nearly 10 feet behind the arc to put his team on top at 25-16, but Elms kept its distance as Buchanon swished home a jumper from the top of the key to make it a 30-20 Becker lead.
The Hawks tallied the next five points with two coming when sophomore Nafis Streeter (Philadelphia, Pa.) got a pretty reverse layup to go off the glass, and the teams traded scores down the stretch of the half before Buchanon registered the final two baskets in the period to send the Blazers into the break down 40-28.
Elms came out of halftime with momentum, Marshall baking home a jumper from the left side to open up a 10-3 Blazer run that cut their deficit down to five. Liggon then got nothing-but-net on a 15-footer at the 14:01 mark to give Becker the 47-40 lead, starting a 10-2 Becker spurt that put the Hawks back in front by 13 (55-42). Davis and Credle then teamed up for back-to-back threes from the left side of the perimeter to extend the Hawks' separation.
Becker maintained its distance down the stretch until Elms started to chip away in the final minutes, cutting it down to a 77-72 Becker lead with 1:08 left to go. Forced to foul, however, EC's comeback was spoiled by an 11-for-12 Hawk performance at the charity stripe in the final minute as Becker's free throw shooting helped finish out the semifinal victory and earn a spot for the Hawks in Saturday's championship game.
Southern Vermont and Becker will line up at the MAC on Saturday, tipping-off at 5:00 p.m. for the crown. The Mountaineers are searching for their program's first NECC Championship in their second trip to the title game while the Hawks are going to the Conference's tournament finals for the fifth time in team history; Becker has captured one NECC trophy (2012) while also getting into the NCAA Regionals a second time with an at-large bid in 2011.