On Sunday, March 6th, the C.W. Post men’s basketball team knocked off the number one-ranked Bridgeport Purple Knights 68-64 to win the East Coast Conference Championship and advance to the NCAA Division II Tournament. The entire tournament was being played in Bridgeport, so the Purple Knights had the home court advantage going in their favor. Nevertheless, this did not rattle the Pioneers as they jumped out to an early 10-0 lead to open the game. As the game progressed, it was a back and forth battle down to the wire. Within the final ten minutes of play, neither team led by more than four points. It was a classic game as both sides were within striking distance of each other for most of the game.
However, the only reason the Pioneers even had the opportunity to play in the championship game was because they managed to defeat the third-ranked Queens College Knights the day before 73-67. This game was an intense battle that needed overtime to decide the victor. The Pioneers dominated the first half, leading by as much as 15 points. During this half, the Pioneers collectively shot 56 percent from the floor and played great defense, limiting the Purple Knights to 2-13 shooting from beyond the arc.
The second half was a different story. The Pioneers once-large lead slimmed down until it was eventually relinquished with 1:20 seconds left play as the Knights went ahead 61-60. The Pioneers barely managed to squeak into overtime, the score tied at 61 going into the extra period.
Senior forward Aaron Hall, an ECC First Team selection had half of the Pioneers 12 points in the overtime session, leading to the 73-67 win that solidified their spot in the ECC Championship game. Hall scored 12 points and secured a game-high 11 rebounds to record another double-double. Junior guard Stefan Bonneau, named ECC Player of the Year, scored 21 points to go along with 5 rebounds in the win. Selected to the All Rookie Team, forward Vaughn Allen had 11 points to complement Hall and Bonneau. In addition, sophomore guard Jonathan Kohler, currently out due to injury, made the ECC Second Team by averaging 13 points and 6 rebounds per contest.
The following day, the second-ranked Pioneers (21-9) went head-to-head against the top-seeded Bridgeport Purple Knights (19-9). At the end of the first half, the score was deadlocked at 36 apiece. The Pioneers were stellar from downtown as they went 6-12 to keep the Purple Knights defenders wary of the outside shot. Billy Butler and Bonneau had three three-pointers apiece at the conclusion of the first half.
The second half played out similarly to the first in that neither team jumped out too much of a lead. The biggest gap achieved by either team throughout the duration of the second half was five points by the Purple Knights. With five minutes left to play, the championship was tied up at 57. During the final five minutes, four different Pioneers scored to defeat the rival Bridgeport Purple Knights 68-64. Senior guard Gilbert Montalvo made a clutch bucket down the stretch to give Post a lead it would never give back. Sophomore guard Tobin Carberry sealed the game by sinking four free-throws in the final seconds of play. Four players for the Pioneers finished in double-figure points, led by Allen with 16 points and 10 rebounds to give him a double-double.
The Pioneers, currently the eighth seed in the NCAA Division II Tournament, next play on Saturday, March 12th, against the number one seeded Bentley University Falcons (22-7).