NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. – Junior guard Ryan Richmond (Toronto, Ont./Thomson Collegiate) banked in a 25-foot three-pointer with 1.8 seconds left to give Bentley University an 86-84 victory over Merrimack College in a Northeast-10 Conference men's basketball game the Falcons needed to win to qualify for the conference championship tournament.
Bentley, with its third straight win and fifth in its last six games, secured the number five seed out of the NE10's Northeast Division while improving to 14-12 overall and 11-10 conference. The Falcons will open with a first-round game at Adelphi University, the fourth seed from the Southwest, Friday night on Long Island.
The Falcons, who had maintained the lead since the eight-minute mark of the first half, fell behind 84-83 on a tip-in by grad student Anthony Barry (Uxbridge) with 10.1 seconds left. Richmond missed the front end of a one-and-one with 18.4 seconds left, Merrimack freshman Juvaris Hayes (Paterson, N.J.) grabbed the rebound and drove to the basket. When his shot was off the mark, Barry followed with the go-ahead basket.
Bentley got the ball to Richmond, who brought it up court and launched what proved to be the game-winner while standing very close to Falcon head coach Jay Lawson, whose team clinched not only a postseason berth but a winning record for the 21st time in the last 22 seasons.
Richmond's game-winner, his third triple in five attempts, completed a 23-point, 11-rebound, four-assist night. The Falcons also received 20 points from senior guard Matt Barr (Stratham, N.H./ Cushing Academy), who tied his career-high set a week ago, and 19 from junior forward Brandon Wheeler (Stamford, Conn./Trinity Catholic HS).
Following six ties and three lead changes during the first 11 minutes, Bentley took a 24-21 lead when senior guard Chris Murray (Littleton/Littleton HS) drained a three ball.
That launched an 18-6 run that produced a 39-27 Bentley lead with 3:45 left in the first half. The spurt also included triples from Wheeler, senior guard Ferguson Duke (Dartmouth, N.S./Hun School (N.J.) and Barr.
Merrimack (18-10, 12-9 NE10) battled back to within two before Falcon sophomore Kyle Bouchard (Houlton, Maine/Houlton HS) hit two free throws to send Bentley into the half up 41-37.
In the second half, Bentley opened a 10-point lead, 60-50 with 13:23 left by scoring six straight. Duke made a driving lay-up, Barr hit a mid-range jumper and freshman guard Seth Stankiewicz (Reading,Pa./The Hill School) scored on a 10-foot fall-away in the paint.
Merrimack closed to within one five times in the final 4:29, the last time on a driving lay-up by Hayes with 29.2, before finally taking the lead with 10.1 to play.
Richmond, Barr and Wheeler all shot well for the Falcons, combining to make 24 of 39 overall and 10 of 19 from three. Richmond was 10 of 15, Wheeler 7 of 11 and Barr 7 of 13.
Bentley achieved the win despite turning the ball over 21 times and giving up 58 points in the paint. The Falcons countered those numbers by shooting better overall, 49-46 percent, and making three times as many from downtown. The visitors made 12 of 27 from deep while Merrimack was only 4 of 18.
Sophomore forward Ryan Boulter (Mansfield) led Merrimack with 24 points, and Hayes came within a rebound of a triple-double, finishing with 19 points, 12 assists, nine rebounds and four steals.