By Michael Otero
The fourth-seeded men’s basketball team came out on top on Wednesday, March 2, against fifth-seeded University of Bridgeport in the first round of the East Coast Conference Championship (ECC) at the Pratt Recreation Center in Brookville, N.Y. The 73-68 overtime victory sent the Pioneers to the ECC semi-finals where they met up with St. Thomas Aquinas College in Washington D.C.
The Pioneers trailed 59-51 with less than three minutes in regulation, but a 9-1 run tied the game at 60. Junior guard Jared Hall had the clutch shot of the run and of the night; knocking down a game-tying trey with a minute and a half left. Hall had a chance to win the game for the Pioneers in regulation, but his walk-off attempt did not fall.
In the overtime session, the Pioneers fell behind early, but were brought back to life when senior guard Dillon Burns hit a go-ahead three pointer to kick start an 11-2 burst. After Burns’ field goal, junior forward Barrington Alston brought the house down with a powerful two-handed dunk over a Bridgeport defender that helped propel the Green and Gold to the win.
For the match, junior forward Greg Dotson had a team-high 22 points on 50 percent shooting from the field and also grabbed nine rebounds. In addition to Hall’s clutch shooting, he poured in 17 points and also inhaled five rebounds and dished out two assists. Burns racked up 11 points, five boards and four assists while Alston added seven points and seven rebounds to his stat line.
As a team, the Pioneers got extra possessions with their work on the offensive glass. As a result, they outscored Bridgeport 15-4 in second chance points. The Pioneers dominance down low didn’t stop on the offensive glass either; they scored 32 of their 73 points from the paint and limited Bridgeport to 10 such points.
Bridgeport was led by junior guard Devon Elliot who scored 18 points on 18 shots. He also contributed five rebounds and three steals. Bridgeport shot just 33 percent from the floor, but kept themselves in the game because of their efficiency from behind the arc and their ability to force turnovers on the defensive end. Unfortunately for Bridgeport, it wasn’t enough to upend the Pioneers.
In their matchup against St. Thomas Aquinas College on Saturday, March 5, the Pioneers suffered an 85-58 loss. With the victory, the Spartans from St. Thomas won their nineteenth consecutive game while the Pioneers finish their season with an 18-12 record.
Early on, the Pioneers held their own, mainly because of the efforts from Dotson who scored six straight points in the game’s opening minutes. With the Pioneers trailing 16-13, senior guard Akosa Maduebugnum nailed a triple to even up the score, but that was the last time the Pioneers held a share of the lead. A 7-2 run after that three pointer shook the confidence of the Pioneers and a later 9-0 run led to the Spartan lead ballooning to 13 at the break.
In the second half, the Pioneers couldn’t right the ship and the Spartans took advantage; extending their lead to as much as 20. The Spartans were led by a quartet of double-digit scorers; the high man being junior guard Chaz Watler who poured in 15. For the Pioneers, Dotson was the top dog in the scoring department with a team-high 19 points while Hall added 13 of his own.
As a team, the Pioneers don’t have to look far to see why they lost this game. They lost the turnover battle by a wide margin and failed to stop the Spartans from getting out in transition. The Pioneers committed 24 turnovers and allowed 26 fast break points.
This is the third consecutive year that St. Thomas Aquinas College has knocked out LIU Post in the ECC Tournament and subsequently ended their season.