PLYMOUTH, N.H. – Senior Leon Martin (Woodbury, Conn.) scored 26 points and grabbed 11 rebounds Saturday afternoon to lead Eastern Connecticut State University to a 97-84 victory over Plymouth State University in the Little East Conference men’s basketball opener for both schools at Foley Gymnasium.
Eastern took the lead for good five minutes into the game, but had to hold off a second-half Panther rally. After trailing by as many as 13 points early in the second half, PSU battled back and got the margin down to five points (85-80) with just under two minutes to play. The comeback fell short when Eastern drained 10 of 11 free throws down the stretch.
Martin made 9-of-15 field goal attempts for the Warriors, leading a group of four players who scored in double figures. Sophomore Edwin Ortiz (Hartford, Conn.) scored 19 points, freshman Courtney Simmons (Middletown, Conn.) added 17, and junior Kris Johnson (Sturbridge, Mass.) chipped in with 12.
The Panthers got a team-high 26 points from sophomore Jason O’Keefe (Everett, Mass.). Sophomore Mike Chergey (Bow, N.H.) added 20 points, making 7-of-11 baskets from the low post, and junior guard Ben Huntington (Hampstead, N.H.) added 19 points from the perimeter.
After an early Panther lead, the visitors went on a 14-3 run to take a 17-10 advantage midway through the first half. Eastern extended its lead to 11 points with four minutes left in the half, and it was an eight-point margin (44-36) at the intermission.
The Warriors maintained the lead the second half, leading by 13 points (55-42) with 17 minutes on the clock and by 11 points (67-56) with 12 minutes to play. O’Keefe hit a pair of three-pointers and Chergey made a couple of buckets down low to help the Panthers get to within striking distance, but the rally came up short.
PSU, 3-3 overall, is home again on Thursday, hosting Bridgewater State in a non-conference match-up (6:00 p.m.) Eastern Conn., 3-3, is back in action next Saturday, hosting UMass Boston in a key LEC contest (3:00 p.m.)
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