EASTON, Mass. -- Senior guard Tom Dowling (Rockville Centre, N.Y./South Side HS) converted a three-point play with 7.8 seconds left to give Bentley University a hard-fought 52-51 win over Stonehill College and sole ownership of the 2010-11 Northeast-10 Conference men's basketball regular season championship. A standing-room only crowd packed Stonehill's Merkert Gym Wednesday night for a contest that saw 13 lead changes, seven ties and neither team having a lead bigger than six.
The championship is the sixth in the last seven years for the Falcons, who are ranked 24th in Division II and first in the NCAA East Region. Bentley reached the 20-win mark for the seventh consecutive season, improving to 20-6 overall and 18-4 NE-10. Stonehill, which would have grabbed a share of the title with the victory, dropped to 21-6 overall and 16-6 NE-10.
With Bentley down two, Dowling started his game-winning drive from out around the three-point line. He took it to the basket, eluded the outstretched hand of the defender, made the basket to even the score and drew a foul on the play. Following a Stonehill timeout, Dowling sank the go-ahead free throw, the ball just hanging on the front rim briefly before dropping in.
Stonehill had one last chance, but a contested three by sophomore Brian Hamor (Guilderland, N.Y.) was deflected by grad student Mike Quinn (Oakdale, Conn./Montville HS) and Bentley sophomore forward Dan O'Keefe (Lexington/Lexington HS) knocked the loose ball out towards midcourt as time expired.
Bentley, down six nearly six minutes into the second half, reversed the momentum with a 10-0 run that produced a 37-33 lead with 9:22 to play. Sophomore Greg Jacques (Brockton/St. Sebastian's HS) nailed a three from the left win, senior forward Brian Tracey (Bow Mar, Colo./Heritage HS) hit a lay-up, freshman guard Jasper Grassa (Lynn/Lynn Classical HS) sank the second of two free throws, Quinn scored on a put-back after a steal by junior guard Sam Leclerc (Fayette, Maine/Winthrop HS) and Tracey capped the run with a reverse lay-up.
He didn't score during that 10-0 surge but O'Keefe was very instrumental in Stonehill going nearly six minutes without a point, providing a steal and three blocks at the defensive end.
Six straight points by Stonehill, with four of those scored by six-foot-six junior Ivan Almeida (Praia, Cape Verde) gave the Skyhawks the lead back at 44-43.
Following a couple more lead changes, O'Keefe was fouled while collecting an offensive rebound with 1:27 left. He made one of two at the line, giving the Falcons a 49-46 lead. That vanished when senior Dan Heppert (Richmond, Va.) sank a three from the right wing with 55.8 seconds left, just the second Stonehill triple in 14 attempts.
After a Falcon missed three, six-foot-seven senior Mike Kernan (Medford, N.J.) was fouled in the rebounding action. He went to the stripe with 39.1 seconds left and canned them both to give Stonehill a 51-49 lead. Quinn came up empty on a potential game-tying shot, but the ball went out of bounds to Bentley, setting the stage for Dowling's game-winning heroics.
Tracey led the Falcons in scoring, finishing with 14 points, four rebounds and two blocks. Dowling followed with 12 points and four rebounds, and O'Keefe provided eight points, six rebounds, four blocks and two steals off the bench.
Almeida led all scorers with 16 points, but he needed 19 shots to do so. Kernan followed with 12 points, 17 rebounds and three blocks, and Heppert scored 10 for the Skyhawks.
Stonehill had the edge in both field goal percentage (.375-.333) and rebounds (36-35), but Bentley had two more threes (4-2) and five more free throws made (12-7).
Bentley will have the homecourt advantage throughout next week's Northeast-10 playoffs, and will host the winner of Saturday's Le Moyne-St. Michael's game Monday at 7 pm in a quarterfinal contest.
At Easton, Mass. (Merkert Gymnasium)
BENTLEY 52, STONEHILL 51
BENTLEY (20-6, 18-4 NE-10) -- Brian Tracey 5-13 3-3 14; Tom Dowling 5-12 1-1 12; Dan O'Keefe 3-6 1-2 8; Greg Jacques 2-5 2-2 7; Joe Fremeau 2-4 2-2 6; Sam Leclerc 0-6 2-2 2; Mike Quinn 1-6 0-0 2; Jasper Grassa 0-1 1-2 1; Kevin Kettl 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 18-54 12-14 52.
STONEHILL (21-6, 16-6 NE-10) -- Ivan Almeida 8-19 0-0 16; Mike Kernan 5-12 2-3 12; Daniel Heppert 3-4 2-2 10; Patrick Lee 2-5 1-1 5; Sam Markle 1-4 2-2 4; Brian Hamor 1-5 0-0 2; Andre Tongo 1-5 0-0 2; Adam Fazzini 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 21-56 7-8 51.
Halftime: S 24-23; 3-point goals--B 4-16 (Dowling 1-3; Jacques 1-1; Tracey 1-4; O'Keefe 1-1; Grassa 0-1; Quinn 0-3; Leclerc 0-3), S 2-16 (Heppert 2-3; Kernan 0-1; Lee 0-1; Markle 0-1; Hamor 0-4; Tongo 0-2; Fazzini 0-2; Almeida 0-2). Fouled out--None. Rebounds--B 35 (Quinn, Fremeau, O'Keefe 6), S 36 (Kernan 17). Assists--B 6 (Jacques 3), S 13 (Markle 5). Total fouls--B 12, S 14. Technical fouls--None. A-2400