WALTHAM, Mass. – When Bentley University and Stonehill College last squared off in men's basketball, the Bentley Falcons overcame an 18-point second-half deficit and eventually pulled out a 73-66 double-overtime victory on the road.
The two clubs will renew acquaintances on Saturday at Bentley's Dana Center, with tip-off for the Falcons' final home game of the regular season set for 3:30 pm.
With just two games left until the Northeast-10 playoffs, both teams are battling for playoff position. Stonehill will come into Waltham alone in third place (16-8 overall, 13-7 NE-10) and Bentley (15-9, 11-9 NE-10) is in a three-way tie for fifth with Merrimack College and Pace University.
Before the game, Bentley's two seniors, forward Kevin Kettl (Hershey, Pa./Hershey HS) and guard Sam Leclerc (Fayette, Maine/Winthrop HS) will be recognized as part of Senior Day activities. The two have been in the starting lineup for every game this season, a distinction they share with sophomore guard Jasper Grassa (Lynn/Lynn Classical HS).
Kettl, the only four-year player on this year's roster, cracked the starting five this season after being a part of the team's frontcourt rotation the last two seasons. He doesn't shoot often, about three times a game, but is effective when he does with a .581 field goal percentage. Kettl is third on the club in rebounding, at 4.1 a game, and his scoring norm is 4.3.
Leclerc has had a standout season for the Falcons as he leads the club in both scoring (15.5) and rebounding (6.3) following an 11-point, 15-rebound, five-assist effort Tuesday against Franklin Pierce. He's third in the NE-10 in defensive rebounding despite being just six-foot-one, and is in the top five in the conference in three-pointers and free throws, both in terms of number made and percentage.
Leclerc, who started his career at Bryant University before transferring to Bentley for his final two seasons, has elevated his three-point shooting percentage over 100 points this season to .445,and is number six in Bentley history in free throw accuracy (.830).
Bentley's other double-figure scorers are Grassa and freshman forward Andrew Shaw (Saco, Maine/Thornton Academy). Like Leclerc, both rank in the top eight in the NE-10 in three-point accuracy and in the top nine in three-pointers made.
Grassa is averaging 14.5 points with a conference-high 75 three-balls, a total that has been exceeded only six times in school history. Shaw has built his scoring norm of 10.7 while shooting 45 percent from three.
Stonehill, ranked right behind Bentley in eighth in this week's NCAA Division II East Regional rankings, is coming off a 52-43 win over Southern New Hampshire but has dropped three of its last five games. The Skyhawks are the stingiest team in the conference, limiting their opponents to 57.8 points a game, with the opponents averaging just five three-pointers and 33 percent shooting from downtown.
Guards Brian Hamor and Andre Tongo are the club's top scorers with averages of 13.8 and 12.3, respectively. Senior forward Patrick Lee leads the Skyhawks inside with averages of 11.1 points, 8.7 rebounds (second best in the NE-10) and 1.2 blocks.
As is the case with Bentley, three-pointers are a significant part of Stonehill's offensive arsenal. Tongo and junior Adam Fazzini have both connected 52 times from outside, Hamor has 39 threes to his credit, and sophomore Mitchell Amedio has dropped 27 through the basket.
In the earlier meeting between the two, Leclerc led the Falcons with 26 points and 11 rebounds and junior guard Greg Jacques (Brockton/St. Sebastian's HS) had 15 points, including eight in the second OT. Tongo had a big day for Stonehill, with 22 points and 12 boards. Bentley limited the Skyhawks to only four made free throws but gave up 24 offensive rebounds.
After Saturday, the only game left on the regular season slate will be Tuesday at UMass-Lowell. The NE-10 playoffs will begin Friday, Feb. 24 with teams seven through ten playing first-round games.