SVC falls to Becker in NECC championship rematch

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BENNINGTON — The last time the Southern Vermont College men's basketball team took on Becker College in a high stakes basketball game, they were walking off the court of the New England Collegiate Conference championship game in disappointment, with their NCAA tournament dreams dashed.

Tuesday at Mountaineer Athletic Center, SVC had its chance to avenge last season's loss when the Hawks came to town on a snowy night in Bennington.

Becker took control of the game early holding a nine-point lead by halftime, but the Mountaineers fought back to get the lead down to as low as one point in the waning moments of the game.

SVC would fall one shot short though, as the Hawks went on to top the Mountaineers 74-72.

After being down as much as 17 midway through the second half, SVC coach Dan Engelstad was happy his team was able to fight back, but was frustrated with the Mountaineers digging their own hole in the first place.

"I was disappointed with us putting ourselves in the hole. We really were not sharp at all on both ends," Engelstad said. "They didn't play well. I didn't coach well. It wasn't SVC basketball and that was disheartening. It was good to see us fight. We were down double figures and we kept scrapping away, but it was disheartening that we put ourselves in that hole."

Offensively, SVC struggled to get into a rhythm for most of the game. It wasn't until the final few minutes, where they cut down the lead, that shots were consistently falling.

For the game, the Mountaineers 33.3 percent from the field, with that percentage dipping into the 20's for much of the contest.

"We got into isolation mode and we know that we're bad when we get into that mode," Engelstad said. "A lot of it was because we didn't execute the plays that were called. We didn't do a good job of getting ourselves in positioning, which allowed Becker to provide good defensive help. They're strong and physical enough that you can't just beat them one-on-one. They're disciplined where they're going to be at help. We got into a lot of those late-second shot clocks and taking bad shots because we weren't executing the plays that we're supposed to execute."

On the offensive end, senior guard Mike Pierre paced the Mountaineers. He finished with 26 points for the contest. Twenty of those points came after the halftime break. Andre Hodo and Josh Borders scored 12 and 10 points respectively. KJ Kinsey, who took home NECC Rookie of the Week honors Monday, provided a strong spark off the bench with nine points.

Becker was led by Samuel Durodola, who scored 20 in the game, while Kareem Davis added 18 for the Hawks.

Throughout much of the contest, SVC was settling for a large number of three-point shots, with 30 of its 57 field goal attempts coming from long range. Becker held a significant advantage in points in the pain, with a 34-10 lead in that regard.

Getting the ball into the post was something Engelstad saw his team struggle with throughout.

"The plan was to get it in there. I thought we did a really bad job of finishing," Engelstad said. "I thought we did a really bad job passing in the post. Those were two things that we had a couple post up opportunities that we didn't make good passes. We wanted to try to get them inside and try to get (Samuel) Durodola in foul trouble and we kind of went away from that."

On top of their contest later in the regular season, both SVC and Becker sit near the top of the NECC standings, so it's very possible will meet again in the postseason.

Engelstad hopes this loss acts as a reminder that his team has to come to play every day to find the success they hope to achieve.

"It's eye-opening for the guys and for me. We're not the top dog right now," Engelstad said. "We've got to fight to earn it. Now, we put ourselves in a position, where you lose one at home, you're climbing out of a hole. We've got to keep pushing. Hopefully, we can learn from it and improve on the mistakes we made."

The Mountaineers will be back in action Thursday against Mitchell, who has found some success early in the NECC slate. Tip off is set for 6 p.m. in New London, Conn.

Adam Aucoin can be reached at aaucoin@benningtonbanner.com and at @AAucoin_Banner on Twitter.


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