Bloomfield reaches first Elite Eight
Deacons become first CACC team to reach DII Elite Eight
WALTHAM, Mass. -- Bentley visions of a fourth trip in five years to Springfield and the NCAA Division II Men’s Basketball Elite Eight were ended by Bloomfield Tuesday night at the Dana Center.
Instead, the 75-71 Bloomfield victory will send the streaking Deacons (nine consecutive wins) to the Elite Eight for the first time. In fact, it’s the first time any Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference team has advanced that far in the national tournament.
Senior guard Gage Daye, Bloomfield’s all-time leading scorer with nearly 2,500 points, led the winners with 22 points, eight assists and six rebounds.
Bentley was powered by seniors Brian Tracey, Tom Dowling and Mike Quinn, a trio of 1,000-point scorers who closed out stellar careers with the loss, along with senior forward Joe Fremeau.
Tracey matched his career-best with 27 points and also had 13 rebounds, two steals and a drawn charge. Dowling followed with 18 points and eight boards, and Quinn attacked the glass for ten rebounds.
Things were going well for Bentley for most of the first half. A driving lay-up by junior Sam Leclerc capped a 10-2 run and made it 25-13 midway through the opening stanza. That spurt also included three-pointers from both Leclerc and freshman guard Jasper Grassa.
Grassa’s second trey of the half made it 37-26 with 4:12 left until halftime, but the Falcons managed only one more bucket before the break. Meanwhile, three triples from Bloomfield freshman guard Steve Henderson shot his team back into the game, reducing the deficit to four at the break, 39-35.
Bentley’s cold shooting continued in the second half, with Bloomfield opening with an 18-4 run over the first five-and-a-half minutes to reverse the 11-point deficit they faced in the first half. Senior guard Ryan Rodrigues had eight of the 18 as the Deacons went up 53-42.
With the Falcons down 59-49 midway through the second, Tracey sparked his team to an 11-0 run that returned the lead to Bentley, 60-59. He buried a three from the right wing, took a charge at the defensive end, buried a six-foot jumper and hit three of four free throws to cut the Falcon deficit to one, 59-58. That dominating stretch also saw him provide two offensive rebounds and come up with a steal.
The run continued with two free throws by sophomore forward Dan O’Keefe putting Bentley up one.
With Bentley up 63-61, Daye tied the game with a short jumper with 4:57 remaining, the start of a 6-0 run that put Bloomfield in front to stay. Junior guard Art Ellis scored on a spinning drive to the basket, and junior forward Matt Wafula made it a four-point game, 67-63 with 3:20 left.
One of two free throws by Tracey and two by Dowling brought Bentley within one, 67-66, and after two Gage free throws, a Dowling put-back made it 69-68 Bloomfield with 1:36 left. A fall-away jumper by Daye with 1:11 left was countered by two Dowling free throws with 0:53.6, making it a one-point game.
After Tracey rebounded an Ellis miss, Bentley had the ball with 12.1 seconds left. Dowling took it to the basket, but his attempt was blocked by freshman Kevin Udo.
Bentley sophomore guard Greg Jacques was fouled to prevent a three-point attempt, and he made one of two. The Falcons were unable to come up with the offensive board, and Ellis locked up the Elite Eight trip for Bloomfield with two late free throws.
After hitting 37 of 38 free throws in the first two games of the regional, they were a problem for Bentley in the final with the Falcons missing 11 of 25. In fact, all six players who attempted at least one missed at least one.
“We wouldn’t have been talking as the loser if we had made our foul shots,” said Bentley coach Jay Lawson. “We could have won if they had gone in.”
Bentley also had a rough shooting night overall, finishing at just .343, including only .265 in the second half.
Bloomfield will play Brigham Young-Hawaii in the opening round at the Elite Eight.
Tracey finished his career with 1,547 points, tenth in the program’s history. Dowling had 1,188 in his four years, and Quinn, who played more minutes and started more games than any other Bentley player, closed with 1,062 points. Coupled with Fremeau, that quartet helped Bentley to an impressive four-year record of 110-23.