WALTHAM, Mass. – After securing the Northeast Division's third seed with an 83-68 win over the Franklin Pierce Ravens, the Bentley University Falcons will be in West Haven, Conn. Sunday afternoon to take on the University of New Haven in a Northeast-10 Conference Men's Basketball quarterfinal game.
Bentley, 19-9, enters the postseason a win shy of 20 for the season and on the NCAA tournament bubble. The Falcons were listed eighth in the most recent NCAA Division II East Region rankings and that's how many teams will earn a bid. However, no Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference team was ranked, meaning the automatic qualifier from that conference will be included in the field of eight when it is announced Mar. 10.
Coach Jay Lawson's Falcons closed the regular season with four wins in their last seven games.
New Haven, the third-ranked team in the East, is the number two seed out of the Southwest Division after finishing the regular season 18-8. The Chargers were playing for the division title Tuesday but came up just short, 57-56, on two Dolphin free throws with 2.5 seconds left.
Both squads rely heavily on their starting five. Bentley's starters, which have not varied all season, have accounted for 88 percent of their scoring while New Haven has received 89 percent of its points from the starting lineup since returning from the Christmas break.
Both also featured a talented guard as their top scorer, Bentley senior Ryan Richmond (Toronto, Ont./Thomson Collegiate) and Charger junior Elijah Bailey. Richmond leads the NE10 in scoring and averages 23.3 points, 4.9 rebounds and 3.6 assists. Bailey, who had led New Haven in scoring in 17 straight games before being held to 10 by Le Moyne, produces 19.9 points, 4.0 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game.
Richmond, number four on Bentley's all-time scoring list with 2,065 points, needs four points to take over third place from former Division II National Player of the Year Jason Westrol '10 and is 53 points away from the school record set by Tyler McFarland from 2012-16 (2,118).
Only four Northeast-10 players have played at least 1,000 minutes this season and two of them are Falcons, Richmond and junior forward Chris Hudson (Hodgdon, Maine/Williston Northampton HS). Hudson, who averages 14.2 points, leads the NE10 in offensive rebounds (79) and is number one on the Bentley team in rebounds (8.3) and field goal percentage (.509).
Guard Colton Lawrence (Myerstown, Pa./ELCO HS) has had a solid sophomore year and ranks second on the team in scoring (15.3) and rebounds (6.8). He enters the postseason having scored 20-plus in consecutive games for the first time as a collegian, with 21 at Merrimack last Saturday and 23 in Tuesday's Franklin Pierce game. In both, he knocked down five three-balls.
Rounding out Lawson's starting unit are sophomore guard Jordan Mello-Klein (Sharon/Thayer Academy) and senior forward Zach Gilpin (Hampden, Maine/Hampden Academy), with both scoring just under nine a game. Mello-Klein scored 16 on the regular season finale and also provides 4.6 rebounds and 3.7 assists.
Freshman Mason Webb (Oklahoma City, Okla./Bishop McGuinness HS) has accounted for 48 percent of Bentley's bench minutes and is averaging 4.6 points.
Bailey is one of four double-figure scorers for New Haven with the list also including sophomore guard Derrick Rowland and junior forwards Roy Kane, Jr. and Kessly Felizor. Rowland, the team's top playmaker (86 assists), averages 12.8 points. Kane, Jr. produces 12.0 points and 6.9 rebounds and Felizor's numbers are 10.7 points and 7.2 boards.
Both squads will enter Sunday with identical 7.5 scoring margins. Bentley averages 80 points overall, although that has dropped to 76.7 in conference play, and gives up 72.5. New Haven scores 73.7 a game while allowing 66.6, third best in the NE10.
New Haven has scored 90 or more three times, including 92 in a 12-point win at Bentley Jan. 19. The Chargers shot 54 percent and made half of their 20 attempts from downtown while the Falcons were only 10 of 33 from three. Richmond had one of his five 30-point games this season, finishing with 33. For New Haven, Bailey and Rowland combined for 47 points.
This will be the first-ever postseason game between the two squads despite a 30-game series history that dates back to the 1971-72 season. New Haven has won the last two after four straight Falcon wins from 2014-17.
The winner will advance to Wednesday's semifinals against the winner of the Saint Anselm/Southern Connecticut quarterfinal. The other quarterfinal games pit Pace at Le Moyne and Adelphi at Merrimack.
NORTHEAST-10 CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIPS
First Round Friday, March 1
Game 1: Pace (No. 5 seed SW) 74, Franklin Pierce (No. 4 seed NE) 61
Game 2: Southern Connecticut (No. 4 seed SW) 80, Stonehill (No. 5 seed NE) 75
Quarterfinals Sunday, March 3
Game 3: Pace (No. 5 seed SW) at Le Moyne (No. 1 seed SW) – 4:00 PM
Game 4: Southern Connecticut (No. 4 seed SW) at Saint Anselm (No. 1 seed NE) – 3:00 PM
Game 5: Bentley (No. 3 seed NE) at New Haven (No. 2 seed SW) – 3:00 PM
Game 6: Adelphi (No. 3 seed SW) at Merrimack (No. 2 seed NE) – 3:00 PM
Semifinals Wednesday, March 6 (at highest seeds remaining)
Game 7: Game 6 winner vs. Game 3 winner (7:00 PM)
Game 8: Game 5 winner vs. Game 4 winner (7:00 PM)
Championship Saturday, March 9 (at highest seed remaining)
Game 9: Game 8 winner vs. Game 7 winner (1:00 PM)