WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Morrisville State College men's basketball team battled back late in the second half to upset North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC) tournament host Gallaudet University (20-6) by a 72-68 final Saturday afternoon in the semifinal round of the league's tournament, held in Washington, D.C.
The Mustangs (21-6) advance to the final for the second straight season, facing none other than last year's reigning champion Lancaster Bible College for the conference title and automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Tournament. Tip off for the tournament final will be 2 p.m. tomorrow at Gallaudet.
All-Conference selections, Trent Ward (Auburn, N.Y.) and Kevin Dennis (Bronx, N.Y.) paced Morrisville State with 17 points apiece in the win, adding a combined four assists and nine steals, while contributing seven boards in the victory. Thirteen of Dennis' game total 17 came in the second half of action.
Kenny Bonaparte (Soundview, N.Y.) added nine points to go along with five rebounds, while teammate Jordan Hoose (Hudson, N.Y.) added eight points, also collecting five rebounds, and dishing out a team high four assists.
Three netted double figures for Gallaudet, including Andy Cruz who led the Bison with 25 points and 11 rebounds. Joshua McGriff and Noah Valencia each registered 11, McGriff adding eight rebounds.
Gallaudet led 40-35 at the break and increased their lead to as many as eight with 14:28 to go in the second before Morrisville State took advantage of their defense and forced the Bison to turn over the ball which they were able to capitalize on, on the offensive end of the court.
Following a Steve Dolgos (Geneva, N.Y.) steal, Bonaparte was able to convert the three-point play at the opposite end sparking an 8-0 Mustang run that found the visitors in the lead with 11:33 to go in the contest, their first lead since the 16:50 mark of the first half.
Gallaudet followed with an 8-0 run of their own over the ensuing two minutes, but Morrisville State remained persistent and stayed within striking distance, cutting the host lead to two with just under seven minutes to play.
Following a turnover on the ensuing Gallaudet possession, Hoose found a wide open Tyrin Miller (White Plains, N.Y.) on the baseline who drained a huge three-pointer for the 62-61 Mustang lead.
Cruz was able to tie the contest for a second time in the half by hitting the back end of two free throws on the following Bison possession, but Ward gave the visitors a two-point lead as he stepped to the line and converted both free throw opportunities.
Morrisville State extended their lead to four with 4:24 to play on a fast break layup off the steal by Hoose, before Gallaudet tied the contest at 66 with back-to-back buckets a minute later.
Dennis converted the "and-one" on the opposite end for the Mustangs for the three-point advantage with 2:21 to go, and following a Bison layup to make it a one-point ball game at 2:12, both teams exchanged possession of the ball but were unable to convert as they went scoreless for over a minute of play until Ward hit the backend of two free throw for the two point visitor lead with 26 ticks to go.
Kyle Peck (Oneida, N.Y.) extended it to three with a free throw with 12 to go, before Bonaparte sealed the win for the Mustangs with one from the charity stripe with two seconds remaining.
Morrisville State forced Gallaudet to turn over the ball 18 times alone in the second half, resulting in 18 Mustang points.
The Mustangs will meet Lancaster Bible for a second time this season, and a second time in as many years for the championship title. The Chargers defeated Cazenovia College 67-53 in the second semifinal of the day to advance to the title game for a fourth straight year. In the lone meeting this season between the two teams earlier in the season, Morrisville State collected the win with an 86-73 final score on January 20 on the Chargers home court.
Morrisville State College's curricula are enriched with applied learning and pave the way for opportunity at both the Morrisville and Norwich campuses. An action-oriented, interactive learning lab, the college is a national leader in technology and has been lauded for its exemplary, innovative and effective community service programs.
The college was ranked among the Best Regional Colleges in the North by U.S. News and World Report Best Colleges 2016 issue and was also recognized in the Top Public Schools, Regional Colleges North in the 2016 Best Colleges rankings. For more information about Morrisville State College, visit www.morrisville.edu.