Second-half comeback leads SVC to NECC finals
BENNINGTON >> The monkey or the gorilla as coach Dan Engelstad calls it, is off the back of the Southern Vermont College men's basketball team as they avenged their loss to Regis in the finals of the New England Collegiate Conference tournament last year, by beating them in the semifinals this season.
Down by 12 early in the second-half, the Mountaineers rallied to outscore the Pride 39-22 the rest of the half to go on to a 73-68 point victory.
The Mountaineers comeback began by the simple moves of just making their free throws.
SVC knocked down six free throws in a span of an 8-0 run to cut the Regis lead to four.
Then the huge momentum swing of the night occurred when SVC senior forward Casey Hall brought down the house with monster jam that brought the whole crowd in the Mountaineer Athletic Center to its feet and blew the roof of the building as coach Engelstad would say.
"That was great feeling getting to excite the whole crowd and give the team momentum," Hall said. "Any chance you can get on any give possession to swing the momentum into your favor is important, so it felt great being to do that with that dunk."
Hall's huge dunk made it a two point game and was the intro to the next key part of the game for the Mountaineers that gave them the lead.
With the game tied at 50-50, junior Rayshawn Taylor created a huge spark for SVC, scoring nine straight points to give the Mountaineers a 59-52 lead.
"I saw some opportunities to make some shots and get the rim to open up for me in the second half and I took advantage of it," Taylor said. "It felt good to keep the great energy going for us on the court and give us the lead."
SVC then extended their lead to eight with four minutes to play, but Regis came right back at them with a three ball.
Regis hit two three-pointers on to cut the Mountaineer lead to 64-62 with less then two minutes to go.
All game long Regis did a nice job shooting from three-point range. The Pride finished with 11 three-pointers made in the game when it was all said and done.
Now only leading by two, the Mountaineers needed to find a way to seal the deal and that came through the play of their seniors.
First was senior DeShawn Hamlet, whose lay up gave SVC a two possession lead.
Then after Regis hit another three-pointer to make it a three point game, after Taylor had hit two free throws at the line, Hall again made huge impact for the Mountaineers.
The senior with ice water in his veins, went three of four from the free throw line to give SVC a six point lead with nine seconds to go.
To put a little icing on the cake, Hamlet then knocked down two free throws to end the game and seal the win for SVC.
"I told the seniors in the locker room at halftime that they needed to lead us to victory and that's what they did," said Engelstad. "Casey did a great job getting rebounds and making free throws at the end as well as DeShawn playing great defense and making huge shots. It was great to see those seniors, who have been through it all since they came here, to rise up and lead to us to a win."
Hall finished with a game-high 16 points, while Hamlet scored 12 points in the win for SVC.
Taylor pitched in 14 points on the night for the Mountaineers, scoring 13 of those points in the second half.
Junior Nate Goldsmith was also in double figures for SVC, scoring 10 points in the win as well.
With the win SVC improves to 23-3 and is now on a season-high 15 game winning streak.
However, though, there is still work to be done for SVC, as they know they have one more hurdle to go to reach their ultimate goal of winning a NECC title and making to the Division II NCAA tournament.
"We said it after the win that we're not finished yet," Engelstad said. "We played in the championship game last year and lost, so we don't want to go through that feeling again. That said, though, the guys are playing great and they are ready to take that step reaching that ultimate goal of winning a NECC title."
SVC will host the winner of Becker/Elms in the finals of the NECC playoff tournament on Saturday at 5 p.m.
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