Men's Basketball Punches Ticket to NE-10 Championship Game with 71-68 Win at #9 Saint Anselm

Men's Basketball Punches Ticket to NE-10 Championship Game with 71-68 Win at #9 Saint Anselm

Eric Jean-Guillaume pumps in 17 points in the win

MANCHESTER, N.H. (March 6, 2013) -- The Franklin Pierce University men's basketball team overcame a late deficit Wednesday night to pull out a thrilling 71-68 win over No. 9 Saint Anselm in the Northeast-10 Conference Championship semifinals at Stoutenburgh Gymnasium in Manchester. The fourth-seeded Ravens improved to 21-7 and punched their ticket to Saturday's NE-10 championship game, while the top-seeded and conference regular season champion Hawks fell to 23-5.

Franklin Pierce will be making its first appearance in the NE-10 championship in program history and will play host to sixth-seeded Southern New Hampshire in the finals on Saturday at 1 p.m. in The Fieldhouse in Rindge. The Penmen advanced to the championship game via an 81-62 decision over 10th-seeded Saint Rose on Wednesday night in the tournament's other semifinal contest.

Franklin Pierce and Southern New Hampshire have a storied history against each other on the hardwood and Saturday's contest will be the latest chapter as the teams will be vying for the NE-10 crown and the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Division II Tournament. The Ravens swept the two-game regular season series from the Penmen, including an 83-73 win in Rindge back on Nov. 28.

For the second time in as many games on Wednesday, the Ravens had to shake off a late second half deficit. Franklin Pierce found itself down 64-61 with 4:13 remaining after Saint Anselm reeled off seven consecutive points, including five straight from Chris Santo to cap the surge.

The Hawks seemed to be gaining momentum at the right time, but Franklin Pierce junior forward Ellis Cooper (Northampton, Mass.) had other ideas and began a physical one-man assault down in the low post on the offensive end. He scored on three-straight possessions for Franklin Pierce, including muscling his way for a layup, knocking down a jumper in the paint and converting a pair of free throws with 2:39 left to put the Ravens back on top at 67-65.

Cooper didn't score on Franklin Pierce's next possession, but still came up huge by grabbing an offensive board and kicking it out to senior guard Eric Jean-Guillaume (Stamford, Conn.), who knocked down a 15-footer to make it a two possession game at 69-65 with 1:40 to go.
Santo, who had been Saint Anselm's one-man wrecking crew during its run moments earlier, answered for his team once again by fighting through a pair of Ravens to tip in a miss to pull the Hawks to within two.

Franklin Pierce couldn't put the game away at the other end and St. A's had a chance to tie or perhaps pull out the win as it held for the final shot. James Morse worked his way along the left side of the baseline in the closing seconds and drew a foul, but after making the first of two free throws, he clanged the second attempt off the back iron and sophomore forward Ryen Vilmont (Philadelphia, Pa.) snatched the rebound, drew a foul and hit both foul shots at the other end to seal the win for the Ravens.

Cooper finished with 18 points and ripped down 16 boards for his second-straight double-double output. Jean-Guillaume pumped in 17 points, while grabbing three rebounds, dishing out three assists and swiping a trio of steals. Vilmont had 13 points and six boards to aid the attack. Junior forward Ant Lessane (Brooklyn, N.Y.) provided another strong spark off the bench by going 3-for-4 from behind the arc for nine points.

The Ravens held a 40-31 advantage on the glass as seven of the nine players that saw action logged multiple rebounds. Franklin Pierce overcame 15 turnovers by shooting a solid 46 percent (24-of-52) from the field, including a strong 44 percent (8-of-18) from three-point range.

Santo had 12 points off the bench for the Hawks, while Roy Mabrey netted a team-best 15 points. Mike McCahey and Morse contributed with 11 and 10, respectively.

Saint Anselm got out of the gates quick by scoring the first five points and the Hawks led for a majority of the first half, but could not quite pull away as the Ravens kept it close.

After trailing for the first 15 minutes of the game, Franklin Pierce turned the tide and mounted a 12-0 run to take its first lead of the game at 37-32 with 3:00 left until halftime.  Vilmont sparked the surge with a layup and back-to-back three-pointers. The Ravens continued to hold the lead the remainder of the period and took a 41-37 advantage into intermission.

It was the Hawks turn to mount a rally and they did by scoring eight of the second half's first 10 points, aided by four points apiece from Mabrey and Dino Mallios, to retake the lead at 45-43.

The teams traded baskets for the next several minutes before Franklin Pierce responded with an 8-0 run on the strength of six points from Jean-Guillaume and another Cooper jumper in the paint to take a 59-55 lead with 7:01 left. The teams continued to trade baskets before St. A's went on its run to set up the final few frantic possessions of the game.

Franklin Pierce improved to 6-0 this season when facing a team which was either ranked or receiving honorable mention votes for the Division II top-25 poll at the time of tipoff.

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