NE-10 Basketball Roundup: Ravens scale new heights, upset Hawks
GOFFSTOWN - Ellis Cooper saw an opportunity and exploited it all the way to an all-New Hampshire Northeast-10 Conference championship berth.
A 6-foot-3 forward, Cooper muscled his way down low four times in the final four minutes against a defender with four fouls. The results were two buckets, two made free throws and an offensive rebound that led to a jumper.
Cooper's dominance in the paint turned his team's three-point deficit into a four-point lead and fourth-ranked Franklin Pierce University hung on for a 71-68 win on Thursday against top-ranked host St. Anselm College.
With the victory, the Ravens advanced to their first-ever trip to the NE-10 men's basketball title game, which they will host against sixth-ranked Southern New Hampshire University for the championship on Saturday at 1 p.m.
The Penmen beat 10th-ranked St. Rose, 81-62, in Wednesday's other NE-10 men's semifinal.
"(Cooper) was huge for us," said Franklin Pierce head coach David Chadbourne. "He's been playing hurt most of the season. He's just now starting to get healthy and that's a good thing for us."
It was a great thing last night at Stoutenburgh Gym in front of 839, a small crowd due to the school being on spring break. Cooper finished with a team-high 18 points and 16 rebounds.
"We just got it going down at the rim," Cooper said. "I got a little comfortable down there."
He felt most comfortable late in the game against 6-5 sophomore forward Chris Santo, who was down to his last foul.
"I think they tried to exploit the matchup," said St. Anselm head coach Keith Dickson. "Chris couldn't really do anything with him. (Cooper) took advantage of it."
Santo likely would have been the hero if not for Cooper. Santo, who had 12 points, converted on a three-point play with 4:40 left to put St. Anselm on top 62-61, the sixth lead change of the half. He hit a layup, then a free throw to make it 65-53, and his putback with 1:05 left cut St. Anselm's deficit to 69-67.
The Hawks (23-5, 18-5) had a chance to tie the game with 4.2 seconds left, but James Morse missed the second of two free throws and the hosts failed to get up a last-second three-point attempt.
"I tip my hat to them," Dickson said. "They came in here and got one."
Franklin Pierce (21-7, 17-6) got one to earn its first trip to the Northeast-10 title game.
"It's great for us to do something no one's done before in our program," Chadbourne said. "We're happy and we're going to embrace that."
St. Anselm was looking for a conference-best 11th trip to the championship game. The Hawks held the visitors in check early.
Some sloppy play by the Ravens allowed the hosts to go up early. Franklin Pierce had three turnovers before attempting its first shot and trailed 5-0 after a three by senior guard James Morse. A layup by Cooper finally got the visitors on the board at the 16:50 mark.
Both teams were intent on shooting from beyond the arc early. The Hawks had some success. The Ravens were initially cold. However, consecutive driving layups by Jean-Guillaume and Cooper relaxed their offense and opened up the outside.
A pair of threes by senior guard Ant Lessane made it 19-19 midway through the half. A three by freshman guard Victor Joshua and long two by Morse finished a 9-3 Hawk run that put them up 32-25 with 6:52 left. Back-to-back threes by sophomore sharpshooter Ryen Vilmont brought Franklin Pierce to within one, 32-31, and began a 16-5 Raven run to end the half up 41-37. Both teams hit six three-pointers in the half.
Eric Jean-Guillaume had 17 points for Franklin Pierce. Roy Mabrey led St. Anselm with 15. The Hawks went just 7-for-16 from the line. The second half included seven lead changes and no team led by more than four.
St. Anselm had won 15 of its last 16 at home against the Ravens. The Hawks last lost at home to Franklin Pierce in 2001. The Ravens have won four of the last six meetings between the teams.
SNHU 81, St. Rose 62:Freshman Rodney Sanders led five Southern New Hampshire University players in double figures with a career-best 22 points for the sixth-seeded Penmen. The Penmen, who are ranked No. 8 in the East Region, won their fifth in a row to improve to 18-10 overall, while the Golden Knights see their season come to a close at 15-14.
Sanders, who scored 15 of his 22 points in the second half, finished 9-for-12 from the floor and 4-for-6 behind the arc while also registering eight rebounds and four assists. Elijah Bonsignore totaled 14 points on 6-for-9 shooting off the bench while also notching four blocked shots and three steals, while Aleksandar Dobrovic canned a pair of three-pointers and tallied 12 points. CJ Marriro narrowly missed a double-double with 11 points and nine rebounds, while BJ Cardarelli knocked down three threes and added 11 points as well.
Dominykas Milka led all scorers with 24 points for St. Rose, going 9-for-17 from the floor. Tyler Sayre was the only other Golden Knight to finish in double figures, as he recorded 12 points.