BENNINGTON, Vt. — Becker College fell to top seeded Southern Vermont College in the semifinals of the New England Collegiate Conference men's basketball tournament 71-66 .
SVC took a 10-point lead midway through the first half, only to have Becker come back and tie things up at 30-30 heading into the locker rooms. The second half was close the whole way as neither side could hold enough momentum to put away from the other, and the Hawks narrowly missed stealing the game as BC swiped the ball from the Mountaineers' final possession and just missed a buzzer-beating to win it. In the extra period, SVC was able to make enough free throws down the stretch to seal the win and move on to its first NECC Championship game.
Mountaineer junior William Bromirski (Cambridge, New York) was electric from the floor, going 8-14 with a 6-10 clip from three-point range for a game-best 23 points. Classmate DeShawn Hamlet (Hartford, Connecticut) followed with 15 points off the SVC bench while senior captain Dolapo Olugbile (Laurel, Maryland) added 13 points and a team-best seven rebounds.
Becker was led by sophomore Kyle Credle (Queens, New York) who dropped 15 points in reserve time while adding four boards and a pair of steals in the effort. Senior captain Donovan Ford-Hayes (Windsor Locks, Connecticut) added 14 points and a team-high three assists, and classmate and captain David Maturah (Windsor Locks, Connecticut) provided 11 points and six rebounds. Junior Rashaun Liggon (Elizabeth, New Jersey) scored nine points to go with his game-best 10 rebounds.
SVC shot 44.2 percent from the floor (23-52) while holding Becker to a 36.9 percent clip (24-65). The Hawks out-rebounded Southern Vermont by a 37-32 margin while the Mountaineers owned a 26-22 edge on points in the paint.
After Becker took to the scoreboard first, Olugbile spotted up from beyond the arc and knocked down a three while being fouled, converting the four-point play for the 4-2 lead. A Becker shot clock violation allowed Bromirski to knock down his first three-pointer, and he followed up with another from deep behind the line to bump the SVC advantage to 10-5. After Maturah hit a jumper, another Bromirski three started a 7-0 Southern Vermont run that gave the hosts their biggest lead of the night (17-7). The Hawks were able to chip away at their deficit, making it 19-14 on a pair of Ford-Hayes free throws.
Southern Vermont once again extended its lead with five unanswered points, and the Mountaineers then led 30-21 with 2:38 to go after a Hamlet layup. That would be the last SVC score of the half, however, and Becker scored the last nine points of the period to send the game to halftime with the score knotted at 30-30. In the final 2:12 of the stanza, Liggon was successful with an and-one play, and junior Jessy Michaud (Fort Lauderdale, Florida) got a layup to go in the waning seconds for the game-tying basket.
Bromirski showed that the 15-minute break would not slow him down as he drilled a three-pointer after SVC forced a Becker turnover on the opening possession of the second half. After the teams swapped scores, the junior knocked down a trey from the right side of the arc, hitting nothing but net to put his team up 38-34. Both sides went cold for a three-minute stretch before Maturah hit a jumper to make it a 39-36 SVC lead. But once again, Bromirski was ready to ignite the crowd and his team as he sunk his fifth three-pointer of the game.
Becker would not be silenced as the Hawks pushed to continue their season, keeping pace with successful trips down the floor. Ford-Hayes swished a 15-footer from the right side of the paint to make it 48-42, and he followed with a fade-away a minute later to cut it to five (49-44). Southern Vermont led by a handful until there was under three minutes to play when BC started to slowly get the game tied back up. Hamlet hit one-of-two free throws, and Ford-Hayes answered with a layup on the ensuing possession to make it a 59-58 Southern Vermont lead.
A Mountaineer flagrant foul with just under a minute to go allowed Ford-Hayes to go to the line for a pair, but he only knocked down the back-end of his trip to the stripe to tie things at 59-59. Becker was granted the ball due to the foul, but Credle would miss a three-point attempt that gave SVC possession for a chance at the last shot. After using its last timeout, Southern Vermont tried to run a final play, only to have the ball stripped by Liggon who was able to corral it and put up a good look as the buzzer sounded; it missed the mark, however, and the game went to the extra session.
Neither side could score on its opening possession of the overtime before SVC junior Jeff James (Bowie, Maryland) drilled a three to put SVC on top. Becker cut it to one on a pair of Credle free throws, but Bromirski extended the lead with his final triple of the night for the 65-61 edge. Southern Vermont was not out of the woods yet as Liggon hit a jumper that was followed by a Ford-Hayed three for BC to pull ahead 66-65. Bromirski then got a floater to go to put his team back in front, and the Hawks would struggle to score the rest of the way. BC missed a shot and turned the ball over as time ticked off the clock. James went to the line with 23 ticks left and dropped both of his freebies, and a Becker technical foul then allowed SVC junior Casey Hall (Albany, New York) to go to the line for the deal-sealing pair that gave the Mountaineers their first playoff win since they defeated Daniel Webster 63-60 in 2011.