NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. – A game-ending 19-5 run erased a four-point Falcon lead and propelled Merrimack College to a 65-54 win over Bentley University in Northeast-10 Conference men's basketball action Saturday afternoon on Merrimack's Hammel Court.
Senior forward Ryan Boulter (Mansfield) buried five three-pointers and led the Warriors with 19 points while junior guard Juvaris Hayes (Paterson, N.J.) stuffed the stat sheet with 17 points, 11 rebounds, eight assists and seven steals. Seven of his points came via free throws in the final 69 seconds.
Bentley was led by sophomore guard Colton Lawrence (Myerstown, Pa./ELCO HS) with a game-high 21 points, including five of ten from beyond the arc.
With the outcome, Merrimack (18-9, 13-7 NE10) locked up the Northeast Division's second seed in the upcoming conference championships. Bentley (18-9, 11-9 NE10) dropped into a tie for third with Franklin Pierce, who the Falcons will host Tuesday in the regular season finale. The winner will gain a first-round bye and the loser will host a first-round home game on Friday.
A streaky second half saw Bentley fall behind by eight, 34-26, after Merrimack returned from the break with a 7-2 spurt. That included two driving lay-ups from Hayes.
The Falcons responded with a 13-3 spurt that produced a 39-37 lead. That flurry included six points from senior forward Zach Gilpin (Hampden, Maine/Hampden Academy), a three from Lawrence and surprisingly, the first points of the contest for senior guard and NE10 scoring leader Ryan Richmond (Toronto, Ont./Thomson Collegiate).
After Merrimack scored the next seven points to go back up by five, junior forward Chris Hudson (Hodgdon, Maine/Williston Northampton) fueled a 9-0 Falcon run that returned the lead to the visitors, 48-44 with just under eight minutes to play.
It would be about seven minutes before Bentley scored from the field again, a Lawrence put-back with 57.3 seconds left that made it a seven-point deficit, 58-51. During that dry spell, the Falcons were outscored 14-1 and were 0-for-8 with three turnovers.
There were three lead changes and six ties during a low-scoring first half that ended with Merrimack in front, 27-24. The Falcons shot 39 percent during the opening 20 minutes and limited the Warriors to 33 percent, with five of their nine baskets from deep.
Lawrence, in addition to 21 points, collected seven rebounds for the Falcons. Hudson followed with 14 points and eight seven rebounds, and Gilpin had eight of each. Richmond was limited to five points on 2-of-11 shooting.
Boulter made 7 of 14 overall, including half of his ten attempts from downtown, but the rest of his teammates struggled from the floor, hitting only 14 of 42.
Bentley shot slightly better overall, .385 to .375, but Merrimack had advantages of 8-6 in threes and 15-8 at the line. Turnovers were key with the Falcons losing the ball 18 times, ten more than the Warriors, and getting outscored 25-13 in points off.
Tuesday's game will be a 7:30 pm start at the Dana Center.