WALTHAM, Mass. – Senior forward Tyler McFarland (Rockport, Maine/Camden Hills HS) filled the stat sheet with 28 points, 13 rebounds and a career-best seven assists, and graduate student Keegan Hyland (South Portland, Maine/South Portland HS) netted 16 of his 20 in the second half, as Bentley University advanced to the finals of the 2016 Northeast-10 Conference Men's Basketball Championships with an 89-84 semifinal win over Stonehill College Wednesday night at the Dana Center.
Bentley, 21-7 and the number one seed out of the Northeast Division, will host Southern New Hampshire, the division's fourth seed, Saturday at 1 pm for the title. It will be the Falcons' first appearance in the finals since 2011 and they'll be looking for their first conference title since 2008.
Threes were flying all night with the two regionally-ranked teams (Falcons fifth this week, Skyhawks fourth) combining for 33 triples and both shooting over 50 percent from downtown. Bentley finished 16 of 31, tying the season-high for makes, and the visiting Skyhawks knocked down 17 of 32.
Down by four midway through the second half, Bentley seized control with 12 unanswered points during a stretch of two minutes and ten seconds. All five starters scored during the run that put coach Jay Lawson's club up 8, 68-60, with about seven minutes left.
McFarland got it going with a lay-up, sophomore forward Brandon Wheeler (Stamford, Conn./ Trinity Catholic HS) followed with a spinning lay-up and junior guard Ferguson Duke (Dartmouth, N.S./ Hun School (N.J.)) finished a fast break with another lay-up.
It continued with threes from senior guard Alex Furness (Wells, Maine/Wells HS), from the left corner, and Hyland, from the right wing.
Bentley's lead hit a game-high ten, 77-67, with 4:37 when McFarland sank two from the line. For the night, he was a perfect 10-for-10 from the stripe.
Stonehill, which owned two wins over the Falcons earlier this season, kept fighting back and closed to within three, 84-81 when sophomore Isaiah Bess (LaGrange, Maine) buried down two free throws with 36.3 seconds left.
Bentley freshman forward Kyle Bouchard (Houlton, Maine/Houlton HS) countered with two free throws with 24.2 seconds remaining, once again making it a two-possession game. Following a Hyland rebound of a Stonehill miss, he made it 87-81 with two free throws with 10.4 seconds showing.
Skyhawk senior guard Adam Bramanti (Middleton) buried his team's 17th triple with 3.8 seconds left. The Falcons were able to inbound to McFarland, forcing Stonehill to foul one of the premier foul shooters in school history, and he buried both to lock up the victory.
Both teams had runs fueled by the three during an opening half that ended with the home team up three, 46-43. Nine unanswered gave Stonehill an early 12-5 lead and Bentley responded with a 13-2 surge that produced an eight-point advantage, 25-17. McFarland had the first eight, including a pair of threes.
Later in the half, Bentley answered a 16-8 Skyhawk run with a 10-2 spurt of their own, including threes from Furness and Duke.
Stonehill started fast in the second, netting 12 of their first 16 points to turn the three-point Falcon lead into a 55-50 Skyhawk bulge.
McFarland, who also had two blocks in 39 turnover-free minutes, moved into second on Bentley's all-time scoring list and broke Jason Westrol's school record for career field goal attempts, finishing the game with 1,563. He passed Westrol (2,056) on the scoring list, moving to within 23 of Bill Holden's all-time record (2,103).
McFarland and Duke (16 points) both knocked down four triples for Bentley, and both Hyland and Furness (11 points) sank three. Hyland complemented his 20 with six assists, and Bouchard helped out with seven rebounds off the bench.
All five Stonehill starters finished in doubles, with junior forward Ryan Logan (Fredericktown, Ohio) leading the way with 22. The visitors got only one point in 22 minutes from the bench, compared with the Falcons'12 in 41 minutes.
Overall, Bentley outshot the Skyhawks 47-42 percent and got to the line more, making 15 of 19 as compared to 7 of 12.
Southern New Hampshire advanced with a 75-59 win over host Saint Anselm.
Bentley swept the Penmen during the regular season, winning 93-77 at home Dec. 5 and 85-78 on the road Feb. 10.