WALTHAM, Mass. – Playing their final regular season game, the trio of Keegan Hyland (South Portland, Maine/South Portland HS), Alex Furness (Wells, Maine/Wells HS) and Tyler McFarland (Rockport, Maine/Camden Hills HS) combined for 78 points and 19 rebounds to lead Bentley University to a 97-95 win over Merrimack College in Northeast-10 Conference men's basketball Tuesday night at the Dana Center.
The victory, coupled with Saint Anselm losing at the buzzer of second overtime at Southern New Hampshire, gave the Falcons the NE-10's Northeast Division title and the division's top seed in the upcoming conference championships. Bentley (19-7, 16-5 NE-10) will host the winner of Friday's Le Moyne-Franklin Pierce game Sunday afternoon at 4 pm in a quarterfinal contest.
Hyland finished with 28 points and seven rebounds, Furness knocked down 10 of 14 shots for 27 points and seven boards, and McFarland followed with 23, along with four dimes and three rejections. It was the fifth time this season that the talented triumvirate had all scored at least 20 points in a game.
There was only one lead change, that coming when Furness buried a three with 17:31 to play, but this one went right down to the final shot, a three-pointer at the buzzer by Merrimack freshman Ryan Boulter (Mansfield) that didn't fall.
After Merrimack knotted the score at 75 on a three from senior guard JT Strickland (Laurel, Md.) with 6:54 play, Hyland launched a 14-4 run that made it a 10-point lead, 89-79, with 3:36 to play. Nine of his points came during that stretch, including a straightaway three to put the Falcons in front for good and a three-point play the traditional way to finish it.
Merrimack, which finished its season at 15-12 (10-11 NE-10), wouldn't go away. The Warriors scored the next eight, a run finished by a transition three from sophomore Kyle Howes (Maynard), and all of a sudden it was a two-point Bentley lead with 1:35 left.
McFarland stretched it to four with a pair from the line, but a three from Merrimack senior Troy Hammel (Valencia, Cal.) brought it back to one, 91-90 with 1:21 remaining.
Hyland made two free throws with 49.5 seconds left, rebounded a Hammel missed triple on the following possession and hit one of two from the stripe with 34.1 seconds for a 94-90 lead. Merrimack senior guard Gelvis Solano (New York, N.Y.) answered back with a three-pointer and it was again a single-point lead, this time 94-93 with 26.9 seconds.
Furness countered with a breakaway lay-up that would be matched by a 16-footer by Hammel with 10.7 seconds left. McFarland, the NE-10's top foul shooter, was fouled with :07 left and after making the first, he missed the second. Howes got the rebound, but Merrimack's attempt at the game-winner wouldn't go.
That was in contrast to when the two teams played at Merrimack back in November. In that one, Furness drained a three with two seconds left for a 77-75 Bentley win.
Bentley used an early 13-0 run – five by Furness and eight by Hyland – to grab a 16-5 lead. The differential eventually peaked at 15, 31-16 with 8:51 to play. At that juncture, Furness and Hyland had combined for 28 of the Falcons' 31.
Merrimack battled back but the Falcons took a 48-43 lead into the break after a foul line jumper by Furness with one second left. After McFarland opened the second-half scoring, the Warriors scored the next six to get within one for the first time, 50-49.
The only other Falcon to score more than three points was freshman guard Ryan Richmond (Toronto, Ont./Thompson Collegiate HS), who came off the bench to score 11 on 5-of-7 shooting.
Solano and Hammel, both of whom were playing for the final time in a Merrimack uniform, led the Warriors with 26 and 25 points.
Bentley outshot the Warriors 51-46 percent overall but the visitors had the edge from downtown, 14-10. The Falcons turned it over four more times (13-9) but had four more rebounds (41-37) and the same margin from the foul line (17-13) with each team missing four.