NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. (February 20, 2016) – A 23-point outing for junior guard Matt Banton (Brooklyn, N.Y.) was not enough to get the win on the road for the Franklin Pierce University men's basketball team against the Merrimack College Warriors on Saturday afternoon. After a three-pointer by junior guard Donte Gittens (Hartford, Conn.) in the final moments of the half, the Warriors would walk away victorious after a three-point buzzer-beater by senior guard Gelvis Solano to make the final score 69-66 at Hammel Court.
With their second straight loss, Franklin Pierce falls to 14-11 (11-9 Northeast-10), while Merrimack advances to 15-11 (10-10 Northeast-10).
It was junior forward Anthony Barry who scored the first basket of the game for the Warriors to put them ahead 2-0. Barry's two points were quickly answered by a layup made by senior guard Tyler Iacuone (Mahopac, N.Y.), to tie the game at 2-2. The next three points would be made by the Warriors to give them a 5-2 lead over the Ravens. However a jump shot made by sophomore center Mike McDevitt (Cumberland, Maine) would help close the gap to a one-point lead for the Warriors. A layup made by the senior guard Troy Hammel would put the Warriors ahead by three again, however it was answered with a three-point jumper made by Banton.
With the game tied 7-7, Merrimack would go on a 13-5 run over the Ravens to make the score 20-12. With 5:33 left in the half, the Ravens would then go on a 7-0 run over the Warriors to cut the lead to just one point. Barry would end the Warriors' scoreless streak by making layup to make the score 22-19. Hamel followed moments later with a jump shot to put the Warriors ahead 24-19. Banton would answer the jumper with a layup of his own to cut the deficit to three. To end the half, the two teams would score four more points each to put the halftime score at 28-25, in favor of Merrimack.
Franklin Pierce would start the second half strong with McDevitt making a jump shot, and sophomore forward Asante Sandiford (Boston, Mass.) making a layup. The Ravens would have a 29-28 lead over the Warriors for only a few seconds, as Barry made a layup for Merrimack to put the blue and gold up, 30-28. Barry's layup would start a 12-4 run for Merrimack, which surged ahead, 42-33. The next five points for the Ravens would come from Banton, after he went 2-for-2 at the free throw line and made a three-point jumper to make the score 44-38. Banton's three-pointer would be answered by a layup made by senior guard JT Strickland to put the Warriors ahead by eight points.
Banton would strike again with 11:45 remaining in the game to put the crimson and gray down by only six points. The Warriors would score another two points to make the score 48-40. The deficit quickly dropped to five points after a layup and a jump shot was made by junior guard Marvilio Berroa (Bronx, N.Y.). With the score 48-45, the two teams went back and forth, with Franklin Pierce collecting nine points and the Warriors coming up with 10. With 6:17 remaining in the game, Sandiford fouled senior forward James Kennedy, sending the latter to the line, where he made both of his free throws to make the score 60-54.
Sandiford and Gittens were both fouled moments later by Barry. Sandiford made both free throws and Gittens completed a three-point play to cut the lead to a point, at 60-59. After two scoreless minutes for both teams, Strickland was fouled by Banton, which sent the former to the line, where he hit both free throws and made the score 62-59. Gittens would score with 2:10 left in the game to make it a one-point game (62-61). McDevitt would foul Hammel moments later, and Hammel split his free throws to make the score 63-61.
Gittens made a layup with 1:42 left in the game to tie the game at 63-63. With 1:02 remaining, Solano would make a three-point jumper to put Merrimack ahead 66-63. With the clock winding down Gittens would answer Solano's three-point jumper with one of his own to tie the game, 66-66, with just six seconds left on the clock. Solano took the inbounds pass himself after the Gittens three, dribbled into the front court and hit a deep three from the left side over Iacuone as time expired to allow the Warriors to pull out the win, 69-66.
Merrimack had four players with double-digit points to help post the win. Hammel finished with 16, Barry with 14, Solano with 13 and Strickland with 11 points. Kennedy finished with eight points and had a total of nine rebounds over the course of the afternoon.
Banton and Gittens finished with double-digit points as well: 23 for Banton and 18 for Gittens. Sandiford finished with 10 rebounds by the end of the game.
Franklin Pierce will have its final regular-season game of the season on Tuesday, Feb. 23, against the Assumption Greyhounds in a Northeast-10 conference showdown. Tip off will be at 7:30 p.m. at the Fieldhouse in Rindge.
For more information on Franklin Pierce Athletics, please visit the official website of Franklin Pierce Athletics (http://athletics.franklinpierce.edu). Also be sure to follow the Ravens through the Department of Athletics' official Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/FranklinPierceRavens), its YouTube channel (http://www.youtube.com/franklinpiercesports) and its Twitter feed (http://twitter.com/FPUathletics). Fans wishing to purchase Franklin Pierce men's basketball apparel can do so at the Department of Athletics' online store (http://athletics.franklinpierce.edu/store).