WALTHAM, Mass. -- Senior guard and tournament MVP Richard Byrd (Central Islip, N.Y.) poured in 27 points, including 16 in the second half, as Adelphi University became the second straight seventh seed to capture the Northeast-10 Conference Men's Basketball Championships, 78-72 win over regular season champion Bentley University Saturday afternoon at the Dana Center.
Adelphi reached the 20-win mark with the victory and earned an automatic berth to next weekend's NCAA Division II East Regional tournament. Bentley, 22-7 overall and the number one ranked team in the East Region, will receive an at-large bid to the tournament when the field is announced Sunday night.
Spoiled with the loss was a career-best 26-point effort from Falcon senior guard Tom Dowling (Rockville Centre, N.Y./South Side HS), who was named to the All-Tournament Team along with classmate Brian Tracey (Bow Mar, Colo./Heritage HS).
Comeback victories had been the modus operandi for Bentley in its first two tournament games with the Falcons rallying from second-half deficits to best both St. Michael's (down nine with 16:20 left) and Saint Rose (down ten with 17:20).
The 22nd-ranked Falcons trailed Adelphi by nine with 10:50 left on Saturday. Once again, they would battle back and would actually tie the game four times, the first at 58-all with 6:10 to play. However, unlike the two earlier games this week, they were never able to gain the lead after drawing even.
Dowling, with a reverse lay-up, is the one who tied the game at 58, but Adelphi senior forward David Akinyooye (Elmont, N.Y.) countered with a 10-foot jumper. After Tracey hit a pair of free throws to make it 60-60, junior guard Richard Harkins (Bellmore, N.Y.) replied for the Panthers with a three from the left wing.
A short jumper by Dowling with 3:21 left evened the score at 63 apiece, and this time, Byrd gave his team the lead back as the 91 percent foul shooter hit two from the line for a 65-63 lead with 2:38 left. Following another short jumper from Dowling, Byrd drove to the basket for a go-ahead lay-up, was fouled and added the free throw for a three-point advantage, 68-65 with 1:56 on the clock.
Bentley came up empty on its next possession, but Adelphi didn't as junior guard Rob Johnson (New Rochelle, N.Y.) canned a three-ball from the left wing after being set up by Byrd. That made it 71-65 with 1:08 left, and the Panthers locked up the win by hitting seven of eight free throws in the final minute.
Bentley used a 6-0 run that included four Dowling free throws to take a 27-24 with four minutes left in the first half. The Panthers, who had answered the Falcons' game-opening 7-0 burst with eight straight of their own, countered again, this time finished the first half with an 8-2 spurt to take a 32-29 lead into the break. Five missed free throws, including one on the front end of a one-and-one, were costly to Bentley in the half.
Adelphi built its nine-point second-half lead (52-43) with sizzling shooting over the first nine minutes of the second half, the Panthers hitting nine of the first 12 shots. They didn't cool down much for the rest of the period, finishing the second 15 of 22 overall, four of six from three and 12 of 13 at the line.
Byrd, who moved to within two points of 2,000 for his career, also had five assists, three steals and three rebounds. He finished 9 of 19 from the floor and was perfect on eight free throw attempts. Harkins followed with 14, more than double his season norm, and Johnson scored 13. Both of those players buried three of four triples.
Dowling had a great shooting afternoon as he was 8 of 11 overall and perfect from both three (2-2) and the line (8-8). He also had four rebounds and two steals. Tracey, who eclipsed the 800 career rebound mark (the first Falcon in 15 years to do so), followed with 15 points, seven boards and two rejections.
Bentley senior forward Joe Fremeau (Manchester, N.H./Central HS) matched his season-best with 10 points on 4-of-4 shooting, and grad student Mike Quinn (Oakdale, Conn./Montville HS) had nine points and five rebounds while making his 130th career start, tying the school record of Jason Westrol.
Both teams shot well in the game with Bentley finishing at 53.5 percent and Adelphi 50.9 percent. Adelphi had ten more shot attempts and was more efficient at the line, finishing 16 of 18 to the Falcons' 19 of 27.
In addition to Byrd, Dowling and Tracey, the All-Tournament Team included Akikyooye and UMass-Lowell's Akeem Williams.
The field and site for the 2011 NCAA Division II Championships will be announced on www.ncaa.com Sunday night at 10 pm.
At Waltham, Mass. (Dana Center)
ADELPHI 78, BENTLEY 72
ADELPHI (20-10) -- Richard Byrd 9-19 8-8 27; Richard Harkins 4-7 3-3 14; Rob Johnson 5-7 0-0 13; David Akinyooye 5-10 1-1 12; Norron McDonald 3-4 0-0 6; Chris Ranglin 0-4 3-4 3; John Calarco 1-2 0-0 2; RJ Samuels 0-0 1-2 1; Bradley Simpson 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 27-53 16-18 78.
BENTLEY (22-7) -- Tom Dowling 8-11 8-8 26; Brian Tracey 3-8 9-11 15; Joe Fremeau 4-4 2-3 10; Mike Quinn 3-5 0-3 9; Dan O'Keefe 2-5 0-0 5; Greg Jacques 2-3 0-0 5; Kevin Kettl 1-1 0-0 2; Sam Leclerc 0-6 0-2 0; Jasper Grassa 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-43 19-27 72.
Halftime: A 78-72; 3-point goals--A 8-16 (Harkins 3-4; Johnson 3-4; Akinyooye 1-2; Byrd 1-4; Ranglin 0-2), B 7-18 (Quinn 3-5; Dowling 2-2; Jacques 1-2; O'Keefe 1-1; Leclerc 0-6; Tracey 0-2). Fouled out--None. Rebounds--A 26 (Ranglin 6), B 25 (Tracey 7). Assists--A 12 (Byrd 5), B 11 (Dowling 4). Total fouls--A 19, B 18. Technical fouls-- None.