Cooper's free throws send Franklin Pierce past Bridgeport to quarterfinals
MANCHESTER, N.H. -- Junior forward Ellis Cooper hit two free throws with 1.1 seconds on the clock and walked away from the foul line miming putting on a championship belt on Tuesday night, as he gave the top-seeded Franklin Pierce a 57-52 win against seventh-seeded Bridgeport in the title game of the NCAA Championship East Regional. Sophomore forward Ryen Vilmont tied for the game's scoring lead with 18 points, 15 of which came in the second half.
With the win, Franklin Pierce improves to 24-8 and advances to the quarterfinals at Freedom Hall in Louisville, Ky.
Vilmont's 18 points came on 5-for-7 from the floor and 3-for-5 from 3-point range, including 3-for-3 in the second half. He led three Ravens in double digits, as junior guard Andre Blackwood added 13 points on 5-for-6 shooting and Cooper contributed 11. Vilmont hit three consecutive 3-point shots between the 14:15 and 11:36 marks in the second half, as Franklin Pierce closed a 30-24 gap down to 36-33. The Ravens took the lead for good 2:59 later (38-36) on a jumper by junior forward Adrianos Vourliotakis Perdikaris.
Bridgeport closed the gap to two twice in the final minute, first with 23 seconds to play. Vilmont drained two free throws with 20 seconds to play and later, Cooper -- with 10 seconds to play and the Franklin Pierce lead only two points again -- hit one of two. This made it a three-point game, and after Bridgeport came up empty on the ensuing possession, Cooper went to the line again to ice the contest with 1.1 showing on the clock.
"[Cooper's] not a great percentage free-throw shooter," head coach David Chadbourne said. "But when it matters, he's a great free-throw shooter."
Senior guard Darian David matched Vilmont and led Bridgeport with 18 points on 7-for-14 from the floor and 3-for-5 from the free throw line. He was joined in double digits by senior forward Dion Waiters, who scored 10 points on 4-for-11 from the floor.