Bentley advances to NE-10 semis
Falcons grab 11-2 spurt after rocky start to second half
WALTHAM, Mass. -- Senior all-conference forward Brian Tracey posted his sixth double-double of the season, finishing with 18 points and 11 rebounds as Bentley outscored visiting St. Michael’s 34-13 during the final 14 minutes to post a 67-54 victory in the quarterfinals of the Northeast-10 Conference Men’s Basketball Championships on Monday night at the Dana Center.
The top-seeded Falcons, ranked 24th nationally in Division II and first in the East Region, will host fourth-seeded Saint Rose, a 92-82 winner against Saint Anselm, in the semifinals on Thursday night. The other semi will pit seventh-seeded Adelphi at number six UMass-Lowell after the two upended second-seeded American International and third-seeded Stonehill, respectively.
Bentley, down 33-30 at the break following a first half in which St. Michael’s sizzled from 3-point range (8 of 14), misfired on 10 of its first 11 second-half shots and faced a 41-33 deficit before getting untracked.
The comeback began with an 11-2 spurt that put Bentley up 44-43 just past the midpoint of the second half, the Falcons’ first lead since 17-16. Tracey had three lay-ups during the run, senior Mike Quinn also had a basket and freshman Jasper Grassa made three in a row from the line after being fouled while attempting a 3.
St. Michael’s sophomore Travis Warech countered with his sixth triple of the night, giving the Purple Knights the lead back briefly at 46-44. Quinn responded with a trey from well outside the arc, and the Falcons stayed in front the rest of the way.
Quinn’s 224th career 3 began a 13-2 spurt that opened a nine-point lead (57-48) with 5:31 to play. Grassa and Tracey hit 3s of their own, and after a Purple Knight basket, the run continued with two free throws from sophomore forward Dan O’Keefe and a driving lay-up from junior guard Sam Leclair.
Consecutive lay-ups from senior Nate Birr brought St. Michael’s back within five, 59-54, with 3:24 remaining, but those proved to be the final points of the season for the Purple Knights.
Two defensive stops by Quinn, a steal and a drawn charge, each led to three-point plays by Leclair and Tracey that pushed the Falcon lead to 65-54 with just under two minutes left. Quinn and senior guard Tom Dowling each hit 1 of 2 from the line in the last 1:21 to account for the final score.
Led by Warech and freshman Michael Holton Jr., St. Michael’s buried five triples during a 17-8 first-half run that opened a 33-25 lead on the regular season conference championships. Five points by O’Keefe in the final 1:15 enabled the Falcons to make it a one-possession game at the break.
Tracey, who moved into a tie for 14th on Bentley’s all-time scoring list with Jamie Baker (1,460 points), scored 12 of his 18 points in the second half. Dowling was the team’s other double-figure scorer as he finished with 12, which pushed his career total over 1,100, and two steals. O’Keefe and Grassa (six rebounds) followed with nine apiece, the duo helping the Falcons enjoy a 20-4 edge in bench points.
Holton and Warech were each kept in check after intermission after both poured in 15 first-half points. Holton led all scorers with 19 points and Warech, 5 of 6 from downtown before the break, tallied 18.
Bentley outshot the Knights 50-36 percent in the second half and finished with a slight edge overall, 44.2 to 42.3. St. Michael’s finished with nine 3s to Bentley’s five, but was off the mark on 9 of 10 after the break.
The Falcons finished at +6 in the rebounding department (34-28), had a substantial advantage in points off turnovers (18-7) and had a bigger edge at the line. Bentley was 16 of 21 at the stripe and committed only six fouls, with St. Michael’s making only 1 free throw in 4 tries.