Men's Basketball Rallies for Big Win Over Southern N.H, 69-66

Sophomore Isaiah Bess poured in a career-high 19 points off the bench to spark the Skyhawks to a comeback win. (PHOTO BY Lewis Glass/SportsPix)

Bess's 19 bench points fires Skyhawks within a game of first place  

EASTON, Mass. (February 20, 2016) – Stonehill College, ranked fourth in the first NCAA Division II East Regional ranking of the season, trailed by as much as 18 points in the first half before rallying for a key 69-66 victory over Southern New Hampshire University in Northeast-10 Conference men's basketball action on Senior Day at Paula Sullivan Court at Merkert Gymnasium this afternoon.

Sophomore Isaiah Bess (LaGrange, Maine/Hampden Academy) helped fire Stonehill to the comeback win with a career-high 19 points off the bench on 7-of-10 shooting from the field, including 5-for-8 from three-point range, and three rebounds. He led a Skyhawks bench which outscored the Southern New Hampshire reserves 28-9. Senior Pierce Cumpstone (Bainbridge Township, Ohio/Kenston) produced his sixth straight double-double and 11th of the season overall (15th career) with 15 points and a game-high ten rebounds with four assists as he made 5-of-7 shots from the floor and converted all four free-throws. Classmate Carter Smith (Columbus, Ohio/Upper Arlington) rounded out the Skyhawks double-figure scorers with 12 points, three assists and two rebounds, while sophomore Joel Berroa (Lawrence, Massachusetts/Central Catholic) chipped in nine points on 4-of-5 shooting.

Senior Rodney Sanders (Elizabeth, New Jersey/Linden) paced four Southern New Hampshire players in double figures with 15 points on 5-of-9 shooting, including 3-for-4 from three-point range, with five rebounds, two assists and two steals. Sophomore Chris Walters (Stamford, Connecticut/Westhill) added 13 points, six rebounds, two blocked shots and two steals, while junior Devin Gilligan (Amherst, New Hampshire/Kimball Union) registered 11 points, aided by 6-for-7 shooting from the free-throw line, and a team-high eight rebounds. Senior BJ Cardarelli (Manchester, Connecticut/East Catholic) chipped in 11 points and four boards.

Stonehill finished shooting 50-percent from the field (25-for-50), including a blistering 65% (13-20) in the second half to spark the comeback. The Skyhawks made 9-of-25 three-pointers (36%), but converted 10-of-11 (90.9%) free-throws, all in the second half. Stonehill held a 30-27 rebounding edge, with a 12-7 advantage in second chance points, to offset a 25-18 disadvantage in points off turnovers. Southern New Hampshire shot 46.9% (23-49) from the field, but just 37.5% (9-24) after halftime after connecting at 56% (14-25) in the first half. The Penmen were 7-for-19 (36.8%) from beyond the arc, including 5-10 (50%) in the opening half, and converted 13-of-20 (65%) free-throws.

Senior Pierce Cumpstone logged his sixth straight double-double with 15 points and ten rebounds. (PHOTO BY Mike Tureski/SportsPix)

Stonehill was down by double figures (18-7) following a Sanders dunk after just eight minutes of play and trailed by 18 on two occasions in the first half, the latter coming (34-16) after two Gilligan free-throws with 4:57 remaining in the half. The Skyhawks got back in the game by closing out the half with a 12-3 run to cut the gap to nine (37-28) after a Berroa layup had the hosts within eight with a minute remaining.

SNHU stretched its lead back to 12 (45-33) after a Sanders three-pointer 3:13 into the second half. The Penmen lead was still 12 (50-38) with a three-point play from junior Adrian Oliveira (Pawtucket, Rhode Island/Brimmer and May) five minutes in before Stonehill reeled off five straight to pull back within seven (50-43) after a layup from senior Adam Bramanti (Middleton, Massachusetts/Masconomet Regional) with 14:21 still to play.

SNHU regained an 11 point margin (54-43) following a layup by junior Jerome Harris (Hartford, Connecticut/East Catholic) with 13:48 to play. Stonehill made its move from there with a 13-1 run giving the hosts its first lead of the night (56-55) on a Bess three-pointer with 7:47 remaining. The lead went back and forth over the next four minutes before the Skyhawks scored four straight for a three-point lead (62-59) following two free-throws by junior Ryan Logan (Fredericktown, Ohio/Fredericktown) with 3:11 to go.

SNHU pulled even (62-62) with a layup from Cardarelli with 2:14 remaining when Bess buried another triple to push Stonehill back in front (65-62) with 1:52 on the clock. The Penmen responded with the next four points to regain the lead (66-65) after a Gilligan steal and layup by freshman Daquaise Andrews (Queens, New York/Thomas Jefferson) with 44-seconds remaining. Smith, who was just 2-for-9 from three-point distance on the night, canned one of those two with 24-seconds left to put the Skyhawks up for good (68-66). Cardarelli missed from three at the other end and then Logan made one of two at the line for a three-point lead with six seconds to go. Stonehill opted to foul up three and Andrews missed both attempts and Bramanti pulled down the rebound to seal the victory.       

Stonehill (19-7, 14-6 NE-10) closes out the regular season on Tuesday when it visits Saint Michael's College for an NE-10 clash at 7:30 p.m. The Skyhawks can still claim a share of the Northeast Division regular season title with a win and losses by Saint Anselm College (at SNHU) and Bentley University (vs. Merrimack) on Tuesday. A win would also sew up a first round bye in the NE-10 Tournament which opens next Friday. Southern New Hampshire (17-10, 13-7 NE-10) hosts Saint Anselm on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.

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Thank you seniors and families!