Stonehill takes NE-10 championship
Tongo named MOP after averaging 23.0 ppg, 5.7 rpg in tourney
EASTON, Mass. – Third-seeded Stonehill, ranked third in this week's NCAA Division II East Regional rankings, broke a 23-year title drought and captured its fourth Northeast-10 Conference men's basketball title with a 73-61 triumph against fourth-seeded Massachusetts-Lowell in front of a sellout crowd of 1,540 at Merkert Gymnasium on Saturday.
Stonehill (21-8, 15-7 NE-10) won its first NE-10 tournament championship since 1989, marking the program's fourth title overall. The Skyhawks earn the NE-10's automatic bid to the NCAA Division II tournament, which will tip off with East Regional action March 10.
UMass Lowell (19-10, 13-9 NE-10) could also receive an at large bid when the NCAA selection committee announces the field Sunday night.
Senior guard Andre Tongo earned Most Outstanding Player honors for the NE-10 Tournament as he led Stonehill with a team-high 23 points (16 second half) on 7 of 14 shooting from the field, including 4 fo 7 from 3-point range, while converting 5 of 7 free throws to go with five rebounds, three steals and a blocked shot. He averaged 23 points, 5.7 rebounds, three assists and three steals over the Skyhawks three NE-10 tournament wins.
Tongo was joined on the all-tournament team by senior Patrick Lee and junior Brian Hamor as well as UMass-Lowell senior Robbie Walton and sophomore Akeem Williams.
Junior Raheem May-Thompson scored 10 first-half points to spark the Skyhawks to a 10-point halftime lead.
Lee finished a point shy of a double-double with nine points and a game-high 12 rebounds, while Hamor chipped in with nine points, two assists and two boards. Freshman Jack Cole and junior Raheem May-Thompson contributed 10 points apiece.
Williams led all scorers with a game-high 25 points (15 second half) to lead the way for UMass-Lowell as he shot 9-for-22 from the field. Walton was the only other River Hawk in double-figures with 10 points.
Stonehill started fast, scoring the first seven points of the contest as Cole opened the game with a 3-pointer, before Lee added a jumper and Hamor drained two free throws three minutes in. Junior Adam Fazzini drilled a three to push the lead to eight 4:12 into the game, before May-Thompson scored a layup for the Skyhawks first 10-point cushion (17-7) at the six minute mark.
Back to back Hamor jumpers put Stonehill up a game-high 14 points at 23-9 with 10:38 left in the opening half. The Skyhawks lead was still 10 after a three-point play by Hamor with 5:05 on the clock, when UMass-Lowell used a 10-2 spurt to draw within two. Stonehill bounced back and was able to regain a 10-point advantage at the break with May-Thompson scoring the final eight points of the half.
UMass-Lowell opened the second half with an 11-2 run to pull within 38-37 after a Walton layup with 15:49 to play. Stonehill wouldn't allow a UML lead, as it answered a series of second half runs to claim the championship and its season-high sixth consecutive win. The Skyhawks used a 12-2 run to regain an 11-point advantage (50-39) on a three-point play by Hamor with 12:55 on the clock.
UMass-Lowell drew back within four after a jumper from junior Matt Welch with 8:37 left, but Tongo buried back to back 3s to push the Stonehill lead back to 10 with 6:49 to go. The River Hawks made one last run, closing within 61-55 after consecutive baskets by Williams with 5:42 to go.
The Skyhawks had the answer yet again, this time converting six of eight at the line during the next three minutes to push the lead back to 12 with 2:53 to play.