TELEGRAM: Greyhounds men's basketball falls short of Bentley in regional championshipMarch 19, 2008
Falcons too strong for game Hounds
NCAA REGIONAL FINAL
By Jennifer Toland
WORCESTER TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF
WALTHAM- "Undefeated!" was not the chant Assumption wanted to hear at the end of last night's NCAA Division 2 Northeast Regional final.
The Greyhounds had hopes of halting Bentley's unbeaten season, but the top-ranked Falcons held off Assumption's valiant second-half rally and prevailed, 88-72, to capture their second straight regional championship.
At 33-0, Bentley has set a program record for wins in a season, has established the longest win streak in New England history and is headed to the Elite Eight March 26-29 in Springfield, where it will face South Regional champ North Alabama. Assumption defeated North Alabama, 85-78, in the second game of the season.
A crowd of 3,233 fans packed the Dana Center, loading the bleachers on three sides of the court and standing six-deep in the open area behind the basket. The student section erupted into its group cheer with about 45 seconds to play.
The loss marked the end of a fantastic year for Assumption (24-11), which came within one victory of tying the storied program's single-season record for wins. The Hounds were 4-23 just three seasons ago and at that point it was hard for AC's seniors to think they'd one day be on the verge of the Elite Eight.
"Maybe in my imagination," senior Corey Diethorn said. "Games like this are something you want to play in and something I got a chance to be part of today, and it's something special."
Assumption came back from deficits of 18 and 9 points to win its regional quarterfinal and semifinal games against Holy Family and Saint Rose and advance to the regional final for the first time since 2002. Bentley, aided by a barrage of 3-pointers, bolted to a 19-point advantage early in the second half.
After a timeout with 16:56 to play, freshman Dominique Price's putback of his own miss started the Hounds on a 15-2 run to cut Bentley's lead to 59-53 with 11:26 to play. It was like here we go again, again.
Senior Greg Twomey banged three 3-pointers during the spurt and the Greyhounds continued to hang around. Bentley pushed the lead back to eight on a Lew Finnegan basket, but with 7:58 left, Twomey buried a jumper to make it 64-60. The Hounds got no closer, though, as Bentley extended its lead with key hoops from Finnegan and Mike Quinn and free throws in the closing minutes.
"We knew we had it in us," Twomey said. "Unfortunately we couldn't keep it going."
Bentley went 4-0 against Assumption this season and for the 12th time this year did not trail.
Five players scored in double figures for the Falcons, led by Jason Westrol with 22.
The Falcons' first four baskets of the game were from 3-point territory. Quinn started 3 for 4 from behind the arc and scored 11 of Bentley's first 19 points. Assumption made 5 of its first 10 attempts from the field, but trailed by nine 7:30 in. Bentley connected on 9 of 18 3-pointers in the first half en route to a 47-31 lead at the break.
"The three previous games they beat us inside continually, so we came into the game saying we were going to try to take that away," Assumption coach Serge DeBari said. "We knew we were playing with fire, but when you have all the weapons, you have to pick your poison."
Bentley finished 14 for 28 from 3-point land. The Falcons made a season-high 15 3s in a regular-season game against Saint Anselm.
Twomey led Assumption with 20 points. Junior Pat Shea added 11 and Diethorn and Mike Foti, who both played in their final games, 10 each. Twomey, who missed most of his freshman season with a knee injury, will return for a fifth year.
Last night, the Hounds got a glimpse at the future - and it looks good - as Price had 7 points and 7 rebounds in 19 minutes and freshman Mike Baldarelli had 7 points and 5 rebounds in 23 minutes. Both were on the floor for most of Assumption's second-half run.
The Hounds will also return Shea, one of the top defenders in the Northeast-10 Conference, starting guard Courtland Bluford and guard Mitch Bajema, who gave Assumption some important minutes off the bench this season before getting hurt last week.
Assumption, coming off an 11-win season, was picked to finish 10th in the preseason NE-10 coaches poll. The Greyhounds started the year 11-3 and advanced to the NE-10 tourney final. Assumption won seven of its last 11 games – three of the four losses were to Bentley.
"Our season is a testimony to the quality of our seniors and their commitment to the program," DeBari said. "This season started last April. That's when you really show your character - when no one's watching. When no one's watching, what are you doing to make yourself a better player? These guys were great at that. They've set an example.
"I guess I would say I'm a little bit surprised we went this far," DeBari said, "but when you evaluate how good the people we have are, it's not surprising at all."
Bentley 88, Assumption 72
Greg Twomey 8-12 1-1 20, Patrick Shea 5-15 1-2 11, Corey Diethorn 5-9 0-0 10, Mike Foti 4-8 1-2 10, Dominique Price 2-7 3-5 7, Mike Baldarelli 3-6 0-0 7, Courtland Bluford 2-8 0-1 4, Renan Malafaia 1-1 0-0 2, Walter Weekes 0-0 1-2 1, Marek Kulig 0-0 0-0 0, Mitch Bajema 0-0 0-0 0, Alex Popp 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 30-66 7-13 72.
Jason Westrol 7-17 5-5 22, Mike Quinn 6-7 2-5 18, Nate Fritsch 4-11 5-6 17, Yusuf Abdul-Ali 5-9 4-4 15, Lew Finnegan 4-8 0-0 10, Michael Sikonski 1-3 0-1 2, Tom Dowling 0-4 2-2 2, James Oberg 1-1 0-0 2, Brian Tracey 0-1 0-0 0, John Brandt 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 28-62 18-23 88.
Halftime: B, 47-31. 3-point goals: A 5-18 (Twomey 3-5, Foti 1-2, Baldarelli 1-3, Price 0-1, Bluford 0-1, Shea 0-6), B 14-28 (Fritsch 4-8, Quinn 4-5, Westrol 3-7, Finnegan 2-5, Abdul-Ali 1-1, Tracey 0-1, Brandt 0-1). Rebounds: A 43 (Foti 8, Twomey 8), B 32 (Westrol 6, Fritsch 6). Assists: A 10 (Shea 2, Foti 2, Twomey 2), B 19 (Westrol 6). Total fouls: Assumption 21, Bentley 14.