January 14, 2012

Grassa, Leclerc Lead Bentley Past Saint Rose & into Tie for 1st Place

WALTHAM, Mass. – Sophomore guard Jasper Grassa (Lynn/Lynn Classical HS) buried four of his team's 12 three-pointers en route to a game-high 17 points and senior guard Sam Leclerc (Fayette, Maine/Winthrop HS) scored 11 of his 14 in the final four minutes as Bentley University edged The College of Saint Rose, 64-60, in Northeast-10 Conference men's basketball Saturday afternoon at the Dana Center.

The win elevated Bentley to 12-3 overall, and coupled with Adelphi University's 61-46 loss at Franklin Pierce University, lifted the Falcons into a first-place tie in the NE-10 with Adelphi. The two co-leaders, who share a one-game lead over three teams, will meet Tuesday night at the Dana Center (7:30 pm) for sole possession of the top spot in the 16-team conference.

This was a strange one as Bentley tripled the visitors in the first ten minutes (27-9), managed only 15 points over the next 23 minutes as the Golden Knights slowed the tempo, and put up 20 points down the stretch to pull out the victory after Saint Rose (2-13, 2-9 NE-10) forged a 44-all tie with 6:50 left.

The explosive start saw Bentley outscore the Golden Knights 27-4 over a span of eight minutes after Saint Rose scored the game's first five points. The Falcons drilled nine of ten shots during the stretch, with six of those from outside the arc. Leclerc buried two of the six, and four teammates also connected from downtown.

After falling behind by 18, Saint Rose greatly slowed the tempo, frequently waiting until the shot clock was down to 14 seconds before getting into its offense.  The move paid off as the Falcons scored only five points the rest of the half and Saint Rose cutting the deficit to seven by the break, 32-25.

Bentley continued to struggle to find points scarce during the first 13-plus minutes of the second half, hitting only two field goals (both threes) and scoring just a dozen points. While the Falcons were having difficulties with the game's slow pace, the Golden Knights battled back and eventually tied the game at 44 on a steal and lay-up by senior forward Brian Hanuschak (Cumberland, R.I.) with 6:50 left.

The Falcons quickly answered, freshman Andrew Shaw (Saco, Maine/Thornton Academy) draining a go-ahead three from the left corner 16 seconds later.

That ignited a 15-4 run that pushed the differential back to 11, 59-48 with 2:34 left. Leclerc had both a three-point play the traditional way and a triple from the top of the key, and freshman guard J.P. Koury (Red Bank, N.J./CBA) had a four-point play.

Bentley, up ten after Leclerc hit another three with 59 seconds, saw Saint Rose get back to within five, with the ball, as the clock wound down. Golden Knight junior guard Andre Pope (White Plains, N.Y.) was fouled shooting a three with 4.1 seconds left.  He made the first, missed the second and made the third to bring his team within three, but Leclerc locked up the W by hitting one of two from the line eight-tenths of a second later.

Bentley, which attempted only ten shots inside the arc all day (making six), knocked down 12 of 27 from outside and outshot the visitors 49-36 percent. Saint Rose dominated the boards (38-24 including 21 offensive), and had an 18-10 advantage in second-chance points.

Grassa needed only six attempts for his four treys, and he was perfect on his five free throw attempts. Leclerc hit two threes while scoring 14, and Bentley's freshman class was productive, accounting for all of the team's 21 bench points. Shaw and Koury led the way among the first-years, each scoring eight, and Koury also provided four rebounds and three steals.

Senior forward Sheldon Griffin (Pittsburgh, Pa.) led Saint Rose with 15 points.  Pope followed with 13, along with seven assists, and six-foot-eight sophomore Dominykas Milka (Queens, N.Y.) came off the bench for an 11-point, 10-rebound double-double.

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