The LIU Post men’s basketball team defeated the University of the District of Columbia Firebirds by a score of 85-75 on Saturday, February 25th, to clinch the ECC regular season conference title as well as the top overall seed in the ECC Tournament.
The battle between the top two teams in the ECC was also a much anticipated game because it was Senior Day for the Pioneers. The senior guards of the Pioneers, Stefan Bonneau, Terry Coleman, and Vince Rosario, were all recognized before the game, as this was their final regular season game of their college careers.
At the end of the first half of play, the Pioneers led 41-34 due to strong defensive play against two of the top three scorers in the ECC. The Firebirds’ senior guards, Nigel Munson and Brandon Herbert, each finished the season averaging 19.9 points per game, and both had a difficult time getting into a rhythm through the first 20 minutes of action.
The second half was controlled by the Pioneers. The closest the Firebirds came was with over 16 minutes remaining, when the lead was 47-43 in favor of the Pioneers. The Pioneers stretched their lead to as much as 15 points during the second half, as good defense and the usual high-octane offense led to their sixth consecutive win.
Bonneau led the Pioneers in scoring with 26 points on 8-21 shooting from the floor and also created opportunities for teammates, as he dished out five assists. Bonneau finishes the regular season as the ECC’s leading scorer, averaging 22.1 points per game.
Sophomore forward Vaughn Allen recorded his 11th double-double of the season by scoring 18 points and grabbing a season-high 16 rebounds. Allen finished the season as the ECC’s leading rebounder, averaging 9.4 boards per contest.
As a team, the Pioneers had an advantage over the Firebirds in getting to the free-throw line. The Pioneers were 19-24 from the line, while the Firebirds were only 4-6 from the charity stripe. The Pioneers were also smarter with the basketball, making only eight turnovers, compared to the Firebirds 13 turnovers.
A glaring statistic for the Firebirds was that the team had zero bench points. The Pioneers were given a spark off the bench, as freshman forward Charles McCann had five points and five rebounds (all offensive). In the second half, McCann got the Pratt Center buzzing as he threw down a thunderous dunk that made the crowd erupt into a frenzy. The Firebirds were given no such energy off the bench.
The Pioneers finish the season with a 21-5 overall record and a 15-1 record within their conference. The Pioneers will face the winner of the NYIT/Dowling matchup in the semifinals of the ECC Championships. That game will be on Saturday, March 3rd, at 5 p.m. at Queens College.