Championship Weekend produced some dramatic results across all three conferences. Let's kick off the recap with two upsets in the ECC:
BRIDGEPORT 79 DAEMEN 77
Eric Rankin generated 20 points, including the go-ahead 3-pointer during a key 10-0 run as Bridgeport knocked off #19 Daemen at Hubbell Gym, advancing to the ECC Champiosnhip game on its home floor. The Purple Knights - who also placed Nemanja Zubac (16 points, 6-7 FG, six rebounds off the bench), Bakary Camara (12 points, 12 rebounds) and Travis Robinson-Morgan (10 points) in double figures - trailed 43-33 early in the second half before a 27-13 surge, capped by a Rankin 3-point play, put the hosts on top, 60-56 with 6:35 to play. Then came a pair of rollercoaster runs, with Daemen reeling off 10 straight to reclaim the lead at 66-60 following two Jay Sarkis foul shots with 3:37 left, and Bridgeport countering with the next 10 to move back on top for good at 70-66. The Wildcats - who saw all five of its starters reach twin figures in defeat - closed within two points four times over the final 1:03 but could never draw even as the P-Knights sank 7-of-8 from the stripe over the last 36 seconds to prevail; the clinchers coming from Camara with seven seconds remaining. Breon Harris was high man for the Cats with 18 points, followed by Sarkis (14), Deion Hamilton (14), conference Player of the Year Andrew Sischo (11 points, seven rebounds) and Jeff Redband (10, 6), who became the third Daemen player in as many games to reach the 1,000-point plateau as the team awaits its fate on Sunday's NCAA Selection Show. The Purple Knights - who lost to the Wildcats both times during the regular season, including a lopsided affair in Buffalo just six days earlier - defeated the #1 seed at home due to the predetermined Final Four playoff format. They get the chance to avenge another season sweep at the hands of Molloy in the tourney title game on Sunday.
MOLLOY 73 ST. THOMAS AQUINAS 72
Molloy used the same formula in punching its ticket to the championship game, edging St. Thomas Aquinas in Bridgeport after sustaining a season sweep by the Spartans, including an overtime thriller a week earlier in Sparkill. The Lions - who also won a one-point thriller in their opening-round win vs. District of Columbia - snapped STAC's seven-game win streak, ending its three-year reign as ECC Tournament champs and five-year streak in the final. The game was played within two possessions until a Sekou Cisse dunk gave the Spartans a 45-38 lead with 15:35 on the clock. They then stretched the advantage to 56-44 on a Cisse free throw at the midway mark of the second stanza, and were still on top, 66-61, with four-and-a-half minutes to go when Molloy embarked on a 12-3 jaunt, snapping a 70-70 deadlock on a triple by Mike Torre (17 points) with 1:44 to play and foul shot by Nick Corbett (25 points, four assists) with 1:21 showing. Kameron Murrell - who hit a dagger three in the previous meeting last Saturday - nailed another long ball to bring Aquinas within a point at the 50-second mark, but that would turn out to be the final scoring play of the contest as Curtis Jenkins clanged two free throws with 4.5 seconds left, capping an uncharacteristically inert performance (three points on 1-of-10 shooting, five rebounds, four assists). The Spartans had a chance to steal the win, but a baseball pass upcourt was deflected by Torre to cement the result. Demetre Roberts led the STAC attack with 17 points, followed by Jamar Sudan (14 points, nine rebounds off the bench), Murrell (12 points on 4-of-6 shooting from deep) and Cisse (10 points, seven boards). The Lions shot it better from the floor (47%-37%), offsetting disparities at the line (22-25 to 13-21) and on the glass (40-34).Both teams were an identical 6-for-20 from beyond the arc. St. Thomas Aquinas now awaits word on a possible NCAA at-large bid.
MERRIMACK 51 NEW HAVEN 46
Just up the road in West Haven, defense was the name of the game as Merrimack upended New Haven to capture its third - and final - NE10 championship... its first since 2000. Tourney MVP Ryan Boulter overcame a poor shooting performance (5-18 FG, 5-16 from 3) to reach 17 points, naiiing a huge trifecta that capped a 12-0 run, flipping a 37-31 deficit into a 43-37 advantage with 4:17 remaining. The Chargers pulled within a point (47-46) on a jumper by Kessly Felizor (eight points, eight caroms) with 1:24 to go before Boulter knocked down a pair of freebies and Jaleel Lord (nine points) produced a huge steal and clinching foul shots with two seconds on the clock. The tug-of-war featured six ties, 11 lead changes and nothing more than a five-point spread until an Elijah Bailey jumper put New Haven up 35-28 with 11:30 to play. Idris Joyner (11 points, 4-5 FG, six rebounds) and Juvaris Hayes (eight points, 10 rebounds, nine assists) made impacts for the Warriors, who have won five straight in becoming the first regional team to officially qualify for the NCAAs. Derrick Rowland netted all 12 of his points in the first half on 4-of-8 shooting from long range. Bailey (11 points) and Roy Kane, Jr. (nine points, 11 rebounds) ofered solid support for the Chargers, each of the three playing the entire game in a losing effort. Merrimack - which is reclassifying to Division I and the Northeast Conference next season - won despite being outshot (34%-29%) and outrebounded (40-35), faring better at the foul line (13-15 to 4-6) and forcing nearly twice as many turnovers (18-10). Both teams exhibited frosty touches from the 3-point line (MC 6-28, UNH 6-21). New Haven should receive an at-large berth to the NCAAs tomorrow.
DOMINICAN 65 JEFFERSON 57
A similar defensive struggle occurred in the CACC semis at Caldwell as Dominican knocked Jefferson out of NCAA contention with a gritty defensive effort, holding the South Division champs to a season scoring low and avenging last season's championship loss in Philadelphia. The Rams - who shot an arctic 28% from the floor (DC was 46%) - led only one time (2-1) and fell behind by as much as 34-20 late in the first half before chipping away, closing within 54-53 on a pair of foul shots by Alexander Gorton (six points in reserve duty) with 5:27 left. Jason Copman (10 points, six rebounds off the bench) answered with a lay-up 10 seconds later, sparking an 11-4 flourish over the game's final 5:17 as Jefferson failed to muster a field goal over the last 5:54. The Rams - who were carried by Deondre Bourne (12 of his 14 points in the opening period, six rebounds) and Josh Bradanese (13 points) - stayed in the game thanks to near-perfect free-throw shooting (25-27 to DC's sickly 14-28). Daniel Grant came off the bench to lead five Chargers in double digits with 14 points, six rebounds and eight assists. He was supported by DJ Rodwell (11 points in 40 minutes), Tavon Ginyard (11 off the pine) and Ian Gardener (10 points, nine boards) as Dominican scored twice as often in the paint (32-16) was was much more efficient from distance (5-9 to 4-20).
BLOOMFIELD 90 GOLDEY-BEACOM 86
Dominican will play North Division rival Bloomfield in the championship game, after the Bears rallied late to deny Goldey-Beacom and snag its region-best 12th straight triumph. In a game that saw 12 ties and just as many lead swaps, the Bears were staring at a 79-71 deficit with 4:52 to go after a left-corner 3-ball by Marcellus Livingston topped off an 11-0 Goldey run, erasing a 71-68 deficit. It was all Bloomfield in crunch time, however, as the North Division champs used a 19-7 spell over the final 4:36 to seal the deal, limiting the Lightning to three turnovers, three missed shots and just three free throws over a 4:44 stretch. CACC Player of the Year Kavione Green tied the game at 80-80 with three foul shots at the 1:40 mark, then converted the go-ahead lay-up 29 seconds later. Mahir Johnson - who totaled 18 points (7-10 FG) off the bench - forged the last tie at the stripe with 55 seconds to play before Keith Washington (20 points) came through with the go-ahead lay-up (at :36) and two freebies (:13), making it 86-82. Late baskets by Kyle Elliot (:08) and Corey Taite (0.8) sandwiched the clinching tosses by Rich Chapman (16 points, 7-11 FG, eight rebounds) with six ticks left. Dontay Julius racked up 24 points on 9-of-12 shooting off the bench for Bloomfield, which also received 18 points (4-7 from 3) and seven rebounds from Green. Livingston's 18 points topped the Lightning scorecard, with Elliot netting 17 and Taite closing out his brilliant career with 15 points and 11 boards. The teams were nearly identical in the shooting (GBC 53%, BC 52%) and rebounding (33-33) departments, though the Bears were better on second chances, 15-3.