Assistant Sports Editor
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. -- The Southern Vermont College and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute mens basketball teams played even basketball through the first 19 minutes of the Tri-State Shootout Championship game on Saturday afternoon at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.
But a 7-0 run by SVC in the final 30 seconds of the first half, followed by a 20-3 run to open the second half, let the Mountaineers cruise to a 109-88 victory to secure the team’s first Tri-State Shootout trophy.
"RPI made some shots in the first half, and we had some defensive miscues" coach Dan Engelstad said. "We were able to string some consecutive turnovers and stops together, and our pressure and our defense picked up a little bit. We got some easy plays, and in that last minute we were able to spurt it.
"When we start out games, we play within our comfort and get a feel of how the other team plays. Once we settled in, and all of our wheels started turning, we shut down defensively and we are unstoppable," freshman forward Dolapo Olugbile said. Olugbile scored 17 points and added 7 rebounds in the contest.
The first run started with the game 50-48 in favor of SVC.
With 32 seconds on the clock, freshman Rayshawn Taylor scored three of his 21 points to give SVC a 53-48 lead. 10 seconds later and Taylor would steal the ball from Jesus Cardenas and find sophomore DeShawn Hamlet (game-high 23 points) for a layup.
"[Poing guard Pat Harrington] had three fouls, and we looked to go with a younger player and it was tough to put in a player who hadn’t been in the game," RPI coach Mike Griffin said. "In the second half, I just thought they played very well, executed very well, and we didn’t."
At the start of the second, SVC would convert two quick layups, then RPI’s Tyler Gendron hit a three to make it 61-51 with just over a minute gone.
It would take RPI five minutes to find another field goal, and in the meantime the Mountaineers would score 15 unanswered to take a 76-51 lead. The run was highlighted by junior Jermaine Campbell, who converted consecutive steals-and-finishes to score his only points of the game and give SVC a 74-51 lead. Campbell finished the game with five steals.
"I really like the depth I have," Engelstad said of his bench, which includes Campbell, Taylor, and Hamlet. "The way we play, you can’t sustain that for 40 minutes by yourself."
SVC would balloon the lead out to as much as 36 when Hamlet finished off an and-one play with a made free throw. RPI would mount a late 9-0 run to cut the deficit to 25 with 2:26 to play, but it was too little, too late for the Engineers.
"We talked at half time, and all of the stress was on the defensive side," Engelstad said. "We weren’t worried about the offense. We knew we had to stop them. If we could get stops, we would get easier looks."
In the first half, the teams exchanged baskets, and the lead, over the first 19 minutes. SVC jumped out to a quick 5-0 lead on an and-one play by freshman center Blair Manners (9 points), but RPI would go on a 8-0 run to take the lead back.
RPI guard Nick Keefe (11 points) hit a three to give RPI a 37-36 lead with 6 minutes left in the half. SVC would take the lead back on layups from Taylor and Jordan, but a three from Nate Kane (11 points) made it a 40-40 game with 4:22 left. A pair of free throws from Olugbile gave SVC a two point lead it would not give up the rest of the way.
Hamlet was named the tournament MVP and Olugbile was named to the all-tournament team. Hamlet led all players with nine rebounds. Taylor finished with four rebounds, four assists, and three steals, and Antonie White led all players with five assists. Southern Vermont moves to 6-1 with the win, while RPI falls to 1-6.
"Our hard work is being crowned," Olugbile said. "We went out there and put out our best effort. The coaches had the game plan, we went out there and executed and came home with the championship."
SVC plays next on Thursday, when the team travels to Union for a 7 p.m. contest.