Western loses lead in final seconds, falls to Rhode Island College, 75-74
WILLIMANTIC, CT (Feb. 24) —
After building an 11-point lead with three minutes to play in its Little East Conference semi-final game against Rhode Island College, the Western Connecticut State University men’s basketball team was outscored 16-4 down the stretch to suffer a heart-breaking 75-74 defeat Friday evening at Eastern Connecticut’s Geissler Gym. Rhode Island College advances to meet the tournament’s #1 seeded Eastern Connecticut at 5:00pm Saturday evening.
Senior DaQuan Brooks (Atlanta, GA) led all scorers with 41 points and also pulled down a game-high 12 rebounds to complete a double-double. Also scoring in double figures for Western was junior Ryan Pelletier (Wolcott, CT) who scored 12 points.
For Rhode Island College, Mike Akinrola (Woonsocket, RI) led the offensive effort with 22 points, followed by Mason Choice (Newport, RI) with 17 points, and Avery King (Pawtucket, RI) with 10 points.
Rhode Island College score the game’s first five points and used a solid defensive effort to limit Western to a single 3-pointer by Brooks for more than five minutes, moving out to an 11-3 lead. At the 12:24 mark, the Anchormen pushed their lead to 10 points, 16-6, but a pair of 3-pointers from Brooks (who scored Western’s first 12 points) and a three by Pelletier narrowed the gap to a single point, 16-15. After the two teams traded baskets, it was RIC’s turn to capture the momentum with a six-point run and a 24-17 lead with a little over four minutes to play in the half. A three by junior Michelle Jensen (Gales Ferry, CT), cut the RIC lead to four points, but the Anchormen answered in the closing seconds of the half to take a 32-25 lead into the locker room at intermission.
A 3-pointer by senior Gary Robinson (Torrington, CT) quickly cut the margin to four to begin the second half, and when senior Mark Redding (Waterbury, CT) hit a jumper two minutes later, the Rhode Island College lead as only two. The score remained close through the midway point of the second half, but when Brooks gave Western its first lead, 55-54, on a layup with 7:37 remaining, the momentum shifted in favor of the Colonials. For the next four minutes, it appeared Western would run away with the victory as it extended its advantage to 68-57 with four minutes to play, and still led by 11 a minute later. A four-point run by the Anchormen cut the Colonial lead to seven, but a pair of Brooks free throws gave Western a nine-point lead with 1:29 remaining.
After a layup by Choice, King stole the ball from Brooks on the ensuing inbounds and dished to Michael Palumbo (Providence, RI) who was fouled while converting the layup. After Palumbo’s free throw cut the lead to four, Robinson turned the ball over on the inbounds and King drained a 3-pointer for RIC to make it a one-point game. On Western’s next possession, senior Michael Kennedy (Newtown, CT) was fouled after rebounding a missed Brooks three, and hit both free throws to put the Colonials back up by three with 30 seconds remaining. After Akinrola again narrowed the margin to one point on a driving layup, Western called timeout to set up its inbounds play against the RIC press, but Jensen was called for travelling after receiving the pass from Brooks, giving RIC a chance for the win. With nine seconds remaining, Choice was fouled by sophomore James Barnes (Middletown, CT), stepped to the line, and calmly hit both free throws for a 75-74 Rhode Island College lead. Western beat the RIC press, but Brooks’ three missed the mark, sending Rhode Island College to Saturday’s Championship game with 75-74 win.
With the loss, Western falls to 20-6 on the season while Rhode Island College now stands at 23-5.
Newspaper Box Score
RHODE ISLAND COLLEGE 75, WESTERN CONNECTICUT 74
RHODE ISLAND COLLEGE (22-5)
Mike Akinrola 8-12 6-6 22; Mason Choice 3-7 11-12 17; Avery King 4-12 0-0 10; Tahrike Carter 3-8 2-3 8; Michael Palumbo 2-4 1-1 6; Ethan Gaye 1-2 2-2 4; Tom DeCiantis 2-7 0-0 4; Kadeem Francis 1-2 0-0 2; Jacob Page 0-1 1-2 1;
Steven Roberts 0-3 1-2 1. Totals 24-58 24-28 75.
WESTERN CONNECTICUT (20-6)
DaQuan Brooks 12-27 10-11 41; Ryan Pelletier 3-6 3-4 12; Mark Redding 2-3 1-2 5; Gary Robinson 2-7 0-0 5; Luis Bridtter 2-4 0-0 4; Michael Jensen 1-7 0-0 3; Michael Kennedy 0-3 2-2 2; James Barnes 1-3 0-0 2; Shawn Mobilio 0-0 0; Robert Bentil 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 23-61 16-19 74.
Rhode Island College.......... 32 43 - 75
Western Connecticut........... 25 49 - 74
3-point goals--Rhode Island College 3-14 (Avery King 2-5; Michael Palumbo 1-2; Tahrike Carter 0-1; Tom DeCiantis 0-3; Kadeem Francis 0-1; Jacob Page 0-1; Mike Akinrola 0-1), Western Connecticut 12-28 (DaQuan Brooks 7-11; Ryan
Pelletier 3-5; Gary Robinson 1-4; Michael Jensen 1-5; Michael Kennedy 0-3). Fouled out--Rhode Island College-None, Western Connecticut-None. Rebounds--Rhode Island College 30 (Mason Choice 6), Western Connecticut 40(DaQuan Brooks 12). Assists--Rhode Island College 11 (Mason Choice 7), Western Connecticut 7 (DaQuan Brooks 4). Total fouls--Rhode Island College 18, Western Connecticut 21. Technical fouls--Rhode Island College-None, Western Connecticut-None. A-1000