WALTHAM, Mass. – Sophomore forward Brandon Wheeler (Stamford, Conn./Trinity Catholic HS) scored a career-high 19 points, more than triple his season norm, and senior forward Tyler McFarland (Rockport, Maine/Camden Hills HS) recorded a 22-point, 10-rebound, five-assist double-double as Bentley University took care of Franklin Pierce University, 86-71 in the quarterfinals of the Northeast-10 Conference Men's Basketball Championships Sunday afternoon at the Dana Center.
Bentley, the top seed out of the Northeast Division and the highest remaining seed left in the championships, reached the 20-win mark for the first time since 2011, improving to 20-7 overall. The Falcons will host Stonehill in Wednesday's semis (7 pm) and is assured of hosting the championship if they get that far.
Following five lead changes in the game's first 14 minutes, Bentley closed out the first half with a 16-5 run that put the Falcons in front to stay. Junior guard Matt Barr (Stratham, N.H./Cushing Academy) got it started by banking in a three from the top of the key, tying the game at 28 all.
McFarland followed with a three from the right side with 5:00 on the first-half clock and Bentley had a lead it would never give up. That run also included a driving lay-up by McFarland, a Wheeler lay-up, a mid-range jumper by McFarland, a basket from graduate student Keegan Hyland (South Portland, Maine/South Portland HS) and a buzzer-beating put-back from junior guard Ferguson Duke (Dartmouth, N.S./Hun School (N.J.)).
When play resumed, Bentley continued the run, expanding it to 23-6 for a 48-34 lead two minutes into the second half. Wheeler scored in close, senior guard Alex Furness (Wells, Maine/ Wells HS) sank two from the line, and Hyland buried a three from the left wing.
Franklin Pierce, the fifth-seeded team in the Northeast, closed to within ten a couple times, the last at 67-57 with 7:44 to play. Bentley quickly pushed the lead back to 16 with six straight, beginning with a three-point play by Wheeler, and the Ravens (16-12) never threatened again.
Wheeler, whose previous best was 13, made eight of 11 shots overall, including eight of nine inside the arc. He also had five rebounds, two assists and a steal in his 25 minutes of action.
McFarland, who moved to within 17 of second place on Bentley's all-time scoring list with 2,052 points), made nine of his 20 shots and also came up with three steals. Hyland followed with 16, Duke added nine, and both Furness and Barr scored seven apiece as the Falcons spread the offense around.
Six-foot-eight sophomore Mike McDevitt (Cumberland, Maine) led Franklin Pierce with 18 points.
Bentley outshot the visitors 46-40 percent and turned the ball over only six times while forcing 11. That produced a 13-6 advantage in points off.
It'll be an all Northeast Division semifinal with the other winners being Stonehill (103-101 in OT at Adelphi), Saint Anselm (102-90 over Saint Rose) and Southern New Hampshrie (107-104 in OT at Southwest number one Southern Connecticut).
Bentley dropped both regular season contests with Stonehill, 87-75 at home to start 2016 and 92-71 on the road Feb. 3.