Hosts hold off Purchase, 68-60; Bowdoin routs Fitchburg State, 81-51
WILLIMANTIC, Conn. - Courtney Simmons (Middletown) made the most of his only field goal of the evening and Jeremy Thompson (Berlin) sank two key free throws soon after as men's basketball held off Purchase College, 68-60, Friday night to advance to the championship game of its own tip-off tournament at Francis E. Geissler Gymnasium.
Eastern's (1-0) Simmons hit a bucket in the paint with just under two minutes left and Thompson followed with two free throws after being fouled after a Purchase (0-2) miss to give the Warriors a 63-57 lead with 90 seconds left. The Warriors had led by seven with four minutes left before Purchase's Tyriq Harrington) converted his only three-pointer of the game and Corey Orgias and Marvin Billups nailed free throws to pull the Panthers to within two, 59-57 with 2:20 left.
The victory vaults Eastern into the tournament final for the 25th time in the tournament's 29-year history. The Warriors will meet Bowdoin College (1-0) Saturday at 3 p.m. in search ots its eighth tournament championship. The Polar Bears built an 18-point halftime lead and Fitchburg State College (0-2) was never able to get any closer than 13 in the second half in Bowdoin's 81-51 decision. in the second of Friday's first-round games.
Eastern and Bowdoin will square off for the first time in 21 years. Bowdoin is making its Eastern Tip-Off Tournament debut.
Simmons, plagued by injuries throughout pre-season, missed all five of his shots in the first half while coming off the bench, but connected on a key basket late in Eastern's victory over Purchase. Eastern's Bill Roveto (South Windsor) led all players in the game with a career-high 20 points and game-high-tying nine rebounds, with Edwin Ortiz (Hartford) adding 17 points. The program's season and career three-point field goal leader, Ortiz swished four three-pointers. Jamie Kohn (Columbia) added nine rebounds for the Warriors.
Michael McNair totaled a team-high 18 points for Purchase, Billups adding 11 points and a team-high eight rebounds and Orgias ten points and six rebounds.
Coming off last year's 17-9 campaign, Bowdoin shot just under 60 percent in the first half Friday night against Fitchburg State and limited the Falcons to 27.6 marksmanship from the floor in amassing its 18-point halftime lead. Will Hanley sparked Bowdoin's quick start with two three-point plays. He sank a long three-pointer in the first three minutes, and converted a conventional three-point play a minute later as the Polar Bears' early lead ballooned to ten, 15-5, in the first five minutes.
The 6-foot-7 inch Hanley dropped in seven of his nine shots in the game and led all players on both teams with 17 points and nine rebounds. Justin Nowell came off the bench to contribute 14, Ryan O'Connell adding 12 and Mark Phillips 11 points and eight rebounds for Bowdoin, which shot 58.8 percent from the floor. Hanley and O'Connell combined for 20 points on 8-for-11 shooting in the first half.
Fitchburg connected on 15 of 21 free throws but shot 28.1 percent from the floor, missing 17 of 21 three-pointers. Timothy Graham and Colin London each had 12 points for the Falcons and combined for 11 rebounds. Blake Sheldon had 11 points and six rebounds.