RINDGE, N.H. (November 18, 2015) – Junior guard Donte Gittens (Hartford, Conn.) might not have called bank, but he sure could have as he sent home a bank-shot three-pointer with just over a minute remaining that became the difference maker in the Franklin Pierce University Men's Basketball victory in their home opener against the Saint Michael's College Purple Knights by a final score of 77-74 at the Fieldhouse.
With the win, the Ravens improve to 2-1 overall (1-0 Northeast-10) on the season, giving them an all-important win in their first conference game. With the loss, Saint Michael's falls to 1-2 (0-1 Northeast-10).
Things got off to a rapid start, as the score flipped-flopped and mounted in the first four minutes of the first half, as the Ravens were able to snag a slight 12-8 lead. From there, the scoring would stretch itself out with baskets coming only every few minutes, and mostly in favor of Franklin Pierce as Saint Michael's would go cold from the floor.
The final five minutes of the half is where the action would kick back in, kick started by back-to-back buckets from Gittens and senior Tyler Iacuone (Mahopac, N.Y.) giving the Ravens their biggest lead of the night at 17 points. But the Purple Knights hung in and got a few baskets, capped by a buzzer-beating three-pointer from Greg Grippo going into the locker room, cutting the Franklin Pierce lead to 13 at the half, 42-29.
However, the second half is where the sparks would fly as Saint Michael's kept pushing forward and came out with hot hands. In the opening five minutes of the half, the Purple Knights would spin off a 20-8 run after Grippo would bring them within one after a clutch three-pointer. For the next 1:30, both squads would wrestle for an advantage, with Saint Michael's finally breaking through the ice at 14:23 remaining. Tying the game was a three from Colin Ritchie, setting things at 54-54.
That tie score would light a fire under the Ravens, as Franklin Pierce would get a huge layup from sophomore Asante Sandiford (Boston, Mass.) with a nifty move to the hoop for two to give the Ravens a 56-54 lead. Ultimately, the layup would be the start of a 10-0 run for the Ravens over the next four minutes, capped by a three-pointer from sophomore Mike McDevitt (Cumberland, Maine) with 10:30 to play.
But that lead would only last for so long, as the Purple Knights would cultivate their own 10-0 run over the following four minutes to tie the game back up at 64-64 with 6:22 to play. Down to the wire, it would be a head-to-head battle between Gittens and Grippo, with each playing significant roles in their respective offenses. The big shots for Franklin Pierce would be a pair of three pointers, one from junior Marvilio Berroa (Bronx, N.Y.) at 4:15 left, and one from senior Jacob Jacquo (New Britain, Conn.) with 3:16 to play that would give the Ravens a crucial two-possession lead.
Jacquo's three proved to be critical, giving the Ravens a five point lead at 74-69. That would be no problem for the Purple Knights, as Grippo would respond with a three of his own, followed by a layup by Matt Bonds to tie the game at 74-74 with two minutes remaining.
The tie game would set up Gittens for his masterful shot, as after a slew of subs and a whistle the clock would wind down. With the shot clock about to expire, Gittens had the ball in his hand, created space and shot a fade away, one-handed three from the left wing that kissed off the glass and made its way through the twine to put the Ravens up 77-74 with 1:10 left to play.
Saint Michael's would miss on their ensuing possession, as would Franklin Pierce their following time down the floor, setting up Saint Michael's for a possible chance to tie with 17 seconds to play. The Purple Knights would look at the set up and call a timeout with 4.3 seconds to play, giving them an opportunity to set something up. With Grippo their go-to guy on the night, they would be looking for him on the inbound. They did just that, as he heaved up a try from distance with two seconds to play that would fall just short, off the front of the rim giving the Ravens the win.
McDevitt would be the high scorer for the Ravens on the night, with 18 points as he went 4-6 from distance, also compiling six rebounds and three blocks. Gittens would not be too far behind, finishing with 17 points and six assists. Iacuone and Sandiford each finished with 13 points apiece as they each hit three shots from behind the arc. Iacuone chipped in five assists, while Sandiford challenged McDevitt on the boards with six rebounds as well.
For Saint Michael's, Grippo would lead all scorers on the night with 22 points, while adding in four assists. Morrell Gaskins had a quiet 16 points and nine rebounds, falling a board short of a double-double. Matt Bonds chipped in with 11 points despite foul trouble all night, while Levi Holmes III also put in 10 points.
The difference maker in the game would be the discrepancy in free throws, as Saint Michael's missed numerous opportunities at the charity stripe. The Purple Knights got to the line 19 times over the 40 minutes, only converting eight tries (42.1 percent), while the Ravens only managed seven opportunities putting in four attempts.
The Ravens return to the court on Tuesday, November 24 when they play on the hardwood in the Fieldhouse against Granite State rivals, Southern New Hampshire University. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
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 volleyball apparel can do so at the Department of Athletics' online store (http://athletics.franklinpierce.edu/store).