Banton leads all scorers with 20 points
RINDGE, N.H. (February 26, 2016) – A layup by junior guard Donte Gittens (Hartford, Conn.) with just 38 seconds to go put the Franklin Pierce University men's basketball team up for good on Friday night in the first round of the Northeast-10 Conference Championship. After giving the Ravens the lead, Gittens and junior guard Matt Banton (Brooklyn, N.Y.) combined to go 4-for-4 from the free-throw line in the final 20 seconds to finish off the 73-69 win over Le Moyne at Ted Grant Court.
With the win, Franklin Pierce improves to 16-11, while Le Moyne concludes its season at 10-16. Franklin Pierce is the fifth seed in the Northeast Division of the Northeast-10, while Le Moyne was the fourth seed in the Southwest Division.
With the win, the Ravens advance to play Bentley, the Northeast Division's top seed, in the quarterfinal round on Sunday, Feb. 28. Opening tipoff is scheduled for 4 p.m. at Dana Center in Waltham, Mass. The two teams split their two regular season meetings, with each team winning by double digits at home.
On Friday night, Franklin Pierce led by four at the half (32-28), though Le Moyne would trim the deficit to one immediately, as senior forward Connor Mahoney hit a triple on the Dolphins' first possession of the second half. The team's traded salvos as the second half got underway, as Franklin Pierce pushed the lead back to four, but Le Moyne closed the gap back down to two, after senior guard Qwadere Lovell split a pair of free throws with 18:38 to play, to make it 34-32.
From there, Franklin Pierce went on a 15-8 run over the next six minutes, taking their largest lead of the game (49-40) after Gittens split a pair of free throws with 12:18 to go. Banton had seven points in the run, with his only three-pointer of the night, a layup and a jump shot.
Le Moyne still trailed by seven (55-48) with less than 10 minutes to play, when a 4-0 spurt provided the first hint of a Dolphins comeback. Sophomore guard Russell Sangster hit a pair of free throws and freshman guard Eriq Jenkins followed with a layup to cut the gap to 55-52 with 8:36 to play.
A Banton layup and another split at the foul line for Gittens provided the answer for the Ravens, who would see their lead fluctuate between six and two points for the next four minutes. Le Moyne would close within a point for the first time since the opening stages of the stanza at the 4:12 mark, when sophomore guard Anthony Richards buried a three-pointer.
Yet another split at the line for Gittens -- the Ravens shot just 64.7% (11-for-17) at the free-throw line on Friday -- put the Ravens up by two, 63-61, with 3:45 to play. Le Moyne would strike for its only lead of the second half on the ensuing possession, as Lovell knocked down a three to put the Dolphins out front, 64-63, with just 3:19 to go.
A layup by Banton and a jumper by senior guard Jacob Jacquo (New Britain, Conn.) on back-to-back possessions made it 67-64, in favor of the Ravens, with just under two minutes remaining, prompting a Le Moyne timeout. Le Moyne would get to the foul line on each of its next two possessions, as junior forward Stan Buczek hit a pair of free throws and Lovell split on two. The latter drew the game level at 67-67 with just 60 seconds to play.
The Ravens ran more than 20 seconds off the shot clock on the next possession, before Gittens cashed in what would stand as the game-winning layup with 38 seconds to play, putting Franklin Pierce out front, 69-67. After a Ravens timeout, Le Moyne ran a play for Richards, but he came up empty on a three-pointer and the ball went out of bounds to Franklin Pierce.
Le Moyne was forced to resort to fouling to attempt to get the ball back, but Franklin Pierce -- which was just 7-for-13 from the stripe at the time -- knocked down four straight free throws to effectively put the game away. Gittens hit his pair with 18 seconds to play and Banton followed with two more with 11 seconds remaining to create the 73-69 final. Lovell took a three with seven seconds remaining which could have made the final ticks interesting, but he could not get it to go, as the Ravens hung on for the victory.
Banton had 20 points to lead four Ravens in double digits, as he was joined by Gittens and senior guard Tyler Iacuone (Mahopac, N.Y.) with 14 points apiece, as well as sophomore center Mike McDevitt (Cumberland, Maine) with 12, which included a team-high 10 in the first half. Gittens collected six rebounds along the way as well, and the Ravens shot 28-for-46 (60.9%) from the floor on the night.
Le Moyne had four in double figures as well, led by Lovell with 14. He was followed by Sangster and Jenkins with 11 each, and Buczek chipped in 10 as well. Sangster led all players with seven rebounds, and the Dolphins shot 24-for-50 (48.0%) from the field.
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).