DANBURY, Conn. – Senior Nick Pelotte (Bingham, Maine) scored a game-high 31 points, including career-point #2,000, as third-seeded Plymouth State University held off second-seeded Rhode Island College Friday evening, 72-69, in the first semifinal of the 2005 Little East Conference Men’s Basketball Tournament at Feldman Arena, hosted by Western Connecticut State University.
The Panthers, 19-8 overall, advance to the LEC Championship game for the third straight season. PSU will meet top-seeded WestConn., Saturday at 3:00 p.m. for the title, as the Colonials knocked off fifth-seeded University of Massachusetts Dartmouth in the second semifinal, 94-89. The LEC Tournament champion receives an automatic bid into the NCAA Division III Championship Tournament.
RIC, 18-8, awaits word on a possible ECAC New England Tournament bid, which will be announced on Monday.
Pelotte, who scored more than 30 points for the seventh time this season and the fifth time in his last seven outings, also collected seven rebounds, five assists and four steals. He went over the 2,000-point milestone on his first basket of the second half, becoming the third player in school history (Moses Jean-Pierre, 2,483 from 1990-94, and Adam DeChristopher, 2,090 from 1995-99), and the 13th man in all Divisions of New Hampshire college basketball history, to surpass the barrier. Pelotte made 12-of-25 from the floor, including 5-of-8 from three-point range.
The Panthers also got 26 points and 12 rebounds from sophomore Andreas Pope (Brooklyn, N.Y.), his 16th double-double of the season, and seven points and 10 boards from junior Kevin Boutilier (North Andover, Mass.). Junior Mark Dunham (Salem, N.H.) added five points and junior Pete Hutchins (New London, N.H.) chipped in with three, as all 72 Panther points came from five players.
The Anchormen were led by senior Jason Harris (Bedford, Mass.), who finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds. Junior Kevin Payette (Woonsocket, R.I.) contributed 17 points, and freshman Davon Yarbrough (New Haven, Conn.) added 11 points.
PSU, which ranks eighth in the nation in scoring (88.6 points per game) and 15th in field goal percentage (50 percent), was held in check by the Anchormen, scoring 16 points below its average and shooting just 42 percent. RIC, however, converted only 29 percent from the field for the game and was outrebounded, 53-44. The Anchormen stayed in the game by making 22-of-28 free throws, while PSU was just 6-of-13 from the stripe.
RIC rattled off 11 straight points midway through the first half to open up a double-digit lead (19-9). The Anchormen led by as many as 15 points (26-11), with six minutes remaining, before PSU scrambled back to pull to within one (27-26) at intermission.
There were five ties in the first seven minutes of the second half before the Panthers pulled away for an eight-point margin (58-50) with eight minutes to play. RIC would not go quietly, though, going on a 12-4 run to tie the game at 62-all with four minutes left.
PSU responded with a 9-2 run of its own, going up by seven (71-64) with a minute to play. RIC got it to within one possession, but couldn’t pull even and the clock ran out on the Anchormen.
The Panthers are looking for their first win of the season over Western Conn. in Saturday’s title game; The Colonials defeated PSU, 95-92, in Plymouth on Jan. 15th, and 87-77 in Danbury last Saturday.
Plymouth State was defeated by WestConn., 65-63, in the 2003 LEC Championship game in Danbury, Conn., and by Keene State, 79-67, in last year’s title clash in Keene, N.H.
— 30 —