RINDGE, N.H. -- BJ Cardarelli led four players in double figures with 23 points as sixth-seeded Southern New Hampshire downed No. 4 Franklin Pierce 85-74 in the Northeast-10 Men's Basketball Championship final Saturday afternoon at The Fieldhouse. The Penmen won their sixth in a row to improve to 19-10 and earn an automatic berth into the NCAA Division II Men's Basketball Championship that starts next week. The Ravens, who will likely earn an at-large bid to the field of 64, are now 21-8.

Southern New Hampshire, which was picked 12th in the Northeast-10 preseason poll, earns its first NCAA berth since 2005 and the 17th in program history. The win marks SNHU's first NE-10 title in its third finals appearance, and is the seventh conference title in program history, as the Penmen captured six New England Collegiate Conference crowns before that league ceased operation in 2000.

The 2013 NCAA Division II Men's Basketball Championship field will be announced Sunday evening via a selection show airing online at NCAA.com.


Rodney Sanders was named the Most Outstanding Player of the championship while Cardarelli and CJ Marriro were named to the All-Championship Team.

Cardarelli finished 9 of 13 from the floor and knocked down three of his six 3-point attempts. He also grabbed six rebounds. Mike Stys totaled 18 points, going 7-for-8 from the free-throw line and 5-for-9 from the field, while Sanders finished with 17 points on 6 of 9 shooting, knocking down a pair of 3pointers. Elijah Bonsignore recorded 11 points, five rebounds, five assists and a pair of blocked shots off the bench.

Franklin Pierce was led by Ellis Cooper, who totaled 23 points and eight rebounds, while Eric Jean-Guillaume and Ryen Vilmont each finished with 15 points. Cooper and Jean-Guillaume also were named to the All-Championship Team.

Southern New Hampshire, which led 38-24 at halftime, opened up a 16-point advantage, 50-34, with 15:28 remaining following a Sanders 3 that capped a 9-0 run.  A 9-2 Ravens spurt pulled the home team within nine, 52-43, with 13:21 to go. The Penmen lead fluctuated between nine and 13 for the next several minutes, but with 8:41 left, a 3 by Scotty Tavares-Taylor pulled Franklin Pierce within seven, 60-53.

FPU cut the lead to seven four more times, the last on a Jean-Guillaume layup with 2:29 left, but could not make it a two-possession game. With SNHU leading 74-66 after Cooper made 1 of 2 at the free-throw line with 1:38 to go, Cardarelli hit the dagger with 1:04 left with his 3 from the right corner that made it 77-66.  After Jean-Guillaume missed a 3 at the other end and Bonsignore controlled the rebound, Southern New Hampshire sealed the victory by going 8-for-10 at the free-throw line in the final 50.1 seconds.

The two teams traded the lead three times in the early going before Southern New Hampshire reeled off 10 unanswered points and a Phillip Tripodakis layup with 11:41 to go in the first half gave the Penmen a 20-12 lead.  An 10-4 spurt pulled the Ravens within two, 24-22, with 5:59 to go, but the Penmen allowed just one FPU field goal the rest of the half and a 14-2 run to close the frame gave Southern New Hampshire a 38-24 lead at intermission.

Southern New Hampshire shot 57.1 percent in the final 20 minutes and 52.2 percent for the contest, the fifth time in the past six games the Penmen have shot 50 percent or better. SNHU connected on eight of its 21 3-point attempts and was 21-for-24 at the free-throw line while outrebounding Franklin Pierce 33-24. Franklin Pierce shot 48.4 percent in the final 20 minutes and stayed in the game by converting 5 of 12 3s in the second half, but shot 43.1 percent for the game and just 28.6 percent behind the arc after going 1-for-9 in the first stanza.