BENNINGTON, Vt.. --- The Becker College men's basketball team won the New England Collegiate Conference title with a 79-70 victory at Southern Vermont College on Saturday afternoon in the Championship game of the NECC Playoffs at the Mountaineer Athletic Center in Bennington, Vermont.
The Hawks of Becker (19-8), the second seed entering the tournament, were led by sophomore guard Kareem Davis (Lowell, Mass. / St. John's) with 31 points, making six three-pointers and going 11 of 11 from the free throw line. Senior guard and team captain Kyle Credle (Queens, N.Y. / Benjamin N. Cardozo) had 16 points and seven rebounds while junior forward Samuel Durodola (Rosedale, N.Y. / Campus Magnet) had 12 points, five rebounds, four assists and two blocks. Freshman forward Antonio White Jr. (Middletown, Conn. / Middletown) had eight points and five rebounds. Senior guard Khairi Mosley (Elizabeth, N.J. / Piscataway Vo.) pulled down a team high eight boards to go along with seven points and two blocks. Collectively, Becker went 25 of 29 from the free throw line, good for 86.2 percent.
The Mountaineers of Southern Vermont (17-10), playing as the NECC's top seed, were paced by senior guard Nate Goldsmith (Capitol Heights, Md. / Bowie HS) with 18 points, nine rebounds, three steals and three assists. Junior forward Claude Payne (South Plainfield, N.J. / South Plainfield HS) scored 14 points with ten rebounds while senior guard Rayshawn Taylor (Silver Spring, Md. / Wheaton HS) had 13 points, ten rebounds and four assists. Sophomore guard Josh Borders (Miami, Fla. / Coral Springs Charter School) chipped in ten points.
The opening minutes were intense as both teams fed off the crowd. Becker had success when they started going inside, taking a 17-7 lead on a layup from Mosley with 12:06 to go in the first half. Davis' three-point shooting was on as he buried three of his first six shots from behind the arc. The sophomore guard led all first-half scorers with 13 points. The with 9:42 to go, sophomore forward Dewayne Thomas (Springfield, Mass. / Lowell) stole a Mountaineer inbounds pass in the backcourt and fed a streaking freshman forward Donzell Cunningham (Linden, N.J. / Piscataway) for a layup at the Hawks went ahead 26-9. Becker led by as much as 18 after Credle hit a short jumper with 7:04 to go. Back came Southern Vermont with 19-7 rally to close out the half, with Goldsmith scoring off a layup 36 seconds before the break. Becker went into halftime clinging to a 38-32 lead.
In the second half, the Hawks went back to Davis, who buried two three-pointers in the first two minutes to put Becker back up by double-digits at 45-34. Two minutes later, Davis drove to the hoop and found White for an easy basket, but Southern Vermont sophomore guard Kyle Depollar (Rockville, Md. / Montrose Christian HS) buried a three from the corner to cut it back down to eight. Fouled on a three-pointer, Davis made all three shots as Becker went up 52-41 with 13:52 to go in the game. Then with 9:03 left, Davis hit another jumper to extend the Hawks' lead to 13. Up 12 with 7:18 to go, White was fouled while pulling down a huge offensive rebound. The rookie made both of his shots as Becker maintained control.
One again, the Mountaineers rallied. With 6:27 left, Goldsmith drove to the hoop for a layup. 27 seconds later, Borders hit a huge three to cut it to single digits once again, 64-55. It was part a huge 10-0 run capped off with a layup from Depollar that cut it to four with 4:27 remaining in the game.
With their season on the line, Davis stepped up once again, taking the ball up the court himself and hitting a three with 3:19 left to put the Hawks back up 68-60. Then with Southern Vermont down six with two minutes left, Borders drew the foul going to the hole. The sophomore made both shots and it was four point game.
Then with 51.2 to go, Creddle, after dribbling down the clock, pulled up and hit the biggest three-pointer of his storied career,
Twenty seconds later, Credle would go to the line, making both and giving the Hawks a nine-point advantage. Durodola hit two more free throws with 32 seconds left, and Becker closed out on their first NECC Championship since 2012, avenging last year's loss to the Mountaineers in the finals.
Davis was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player for his virtuoso performance while Credle was also named to the NECC All-Tournament team.
The Hawks will await the NCAA selection committee show to learn where they will play in the opening round of the NCAA National Championship Tournament.
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