March 7, 2009

Courtesy Middlebury Athletics

Bridgewater State’s Stace Garrick hit two clutch three-pointers in the final 37 seconds of the game to lift the Bears to a 78-76 victory over Middlebury in a sold-out Pepin Gym (1,200). Bridgewater (22-6) earns its school-record 22nd win of the season and third NCAA Tournament victory, as they advance to the NCAA sectionals next weekend. Middlebury (24-4) ends the year with a school-record 24 victories and its second straight NCAA Tournament appearance.

Nicholas Motta hit a two and a three early for Bridgewater State to tie the game at 5-5. Trailing 11-9, Middlebury’s Ben Rudin and Kyle Dudley hit back-to-back three’s to give the Panthers a 17-9 lead with 13:59 left to play.

The Panthers led by as many as nine three times in the first half, but the Bears battled back and cut the lead to 42-38 on a hoop from Garrick as the first half expired.

Rudin had 15 points and five assists in the first half for the Panthers, as the team went 7-11 from behind the arc. Both teams shot over 46% from the floor, as Rolan Millien scored 10 points and earned six boards for the Bears.

Bridgewater kept battling back, taking a 45-44 lead on a jumper from the top of the key by Nicholas Motta 2:01 into the second half. Middlebury answered quickly, as Dudley and Tim Edwards hit a pair of three’s to put the Panthers on top, 52-45 with 15:48 left to play.

The Bears went on an 8-0 run following the spurt, taking a 53-52 lead on a hoop from Garrick with 12:59 remaining. A bucket from Rudin gave Middlebury a 68-65 lead with 3:18 left, before Millien and Judah Jackson both fouled out for Bridgewater on the next two possessions of the game. The second foul came on a three-point play converted by Middlebury’s Jamal Davis to give the Panthers a 71-65 lead at the 2:37 mark.

Middlebury held a five-point lead with 37 seconds left, when Garrick hit a 23-footer from the top of the arc to cut the lead to 74-72 before a Bridgewater timeout. The Panthers were unable to inbound the ball as Motta earned a steal and converted to tie the game at 74. Middlebury answered quickly in transition as Davis scored, before Garrick hit another huge three with a defender in his face with 17 seconds left to play. The hoop gave Bridgewater a 77-76 lead, its first since the 9:17 mark.

The Panthers could not convert on the other end, as they were forced to foul after a missed shot. Motta missed the first and made the second with one second remaining to make it a 78-76 game. Middlebury had one last chance, but an end-to-end pass from Aaron Smith was broken up by Motta, as the Bears emerged with the win.

Bridgewater shot .459 from the floor on the night, making 9 of 18 from behind the arc, with 15 of 24 (.625) shooting from the line. The Panthers shot a solid .468, went 5 of 10 from three-point range, but were only able to convert 11 of 26 (.423) free throws.

Millian led the Bears with 23 points to go along with seven boards, while Garrick netted 21 points with seven boards on 8 of 13 shooting from the floor. Motta added a dozen with 11 boards and four steals in the victory.

Rudin paced the Panthers with a game-high 25 points, to go along with six boards and seven assists. Dudley scored 13, Davis netted 11, while Edwards scored nine.