March 14, 2009

Courtesy of Merrimack Athletics

BROOKVILLE, NY - Behind double-doubles and 25 points each from Darren Duncan (Briarwood, NY) and Darin Mency (Hagerstown, MD), the Merrimack men's basketball team defeated third-ranked UMass Lowell 86-84 in the regional quarterfinals Saturday.

With the win, Merrimack (21-8), seeded sixth in the east region, advances to the regional semifinals and will play the winner of #2 Bentley and #7 Bridgeport Sunday at 5 p.m. at C.W. Post in Brookville, New York.

With the game tied at 84 with 13 seconds to play in overtime, Duncan found Aaron Strothers (Wareham, MA) down low who hit a lay-up, his only basket of the game in his only attempt, to put the Warriors ahead by two. Lowell had the last shot but Kevin Carr's three-pointer went off the back rim, and Merrimack prevailed with its first tournament win since 2000. Strothers had just entered the game after forward Jared Brownlee (Portland, ME) fouled out. Merrimack's other power forward, starter Chris Winters (East Lyme, CT) fouled out in the second half.

The teams went back and forth as the end of regulation neared, with Merrimack leading 75-72 after a free throw from Duncan. But Kyle Caiola tied it up with 40 seconds left as he hit a lay-up, was fouled, and hit the free throw. Mency missed a three with two seconds remaining, and a midcourt shot from Lowell was well wide at the buzzer, sending the game to overtime.

In a game that saw neither team lead by more than eight points, coupled with 17 lead changes and eight tie scores, the Warriors took a 33-32 lead into the locker room at halftime behind 14 points and five boards from Mency. Merrimack led for virtually the entire half but never by more than five points. The Warriors forced 11 River Hawk turnovers and capitalized off them, scoring 11 points off the turnovers.

But the River Hawks responded to start the second half, scoring nine of the first 11 points to take a 43-35 lead and forcing Winters to the bench just two minutes in with four fouls. Merrimack also lost Wayne Mack (Paterson, NJ) to an injury three minutes into the final frame.

Mency finished with 11 boards and 25 points, giving him exactly 1,000 career, becoming the 37th Warrior to reach the milestone. Duncan dished out 11 assists and tied his career highs with 17 free throws and 20 attempts at the line. Roland Davis (Deer Park, NY) tallied 15, while Craig Woehnker (Colts Neck, NJ) added 11 off the bench in a career-high 30 minutes.

Four River Hawks were in double figures led by 20 points from Caiola and Max Kerman. Ali Kanaan tallied 12 points and grabbed 10 boards.