SVC tops Becker to win NECC championship
The Southern Vermont College men's basketball team and Becker know each other all too well and they've been in this position before in the New England Collegiate Conference championship game.
Back in 2016, it was SVC who beat the Hawks in the championship game and just last year, Becker got its revenge and took home the title.
Throughout the season, it looked like the two teams were on a collision course to meet again in this game and boy, did the rubber match not disappoint.
After the hard fought, back and forth game, the Mountaineers prevailed in the end to win 67-62 and claim the NECC Championship.
SVC coach Dan Engelstad could not be more proud of the work his team put in to make this happen.
"This is what you work all year for and why you put all the hours in, scouting reports, practices, guys doing individual workouts," Engelstad said. "It's what you dream of. The chance to do it in your own building with the fans there is a special feeling. I'm really proud of our group and they deserve every bit of it."
SVC started out the game hot with a 9-0 run, but quickly the Hawks bounced back and stifled the Mountaineers. From there, the game was a scrappy matchup with momentum turning on countless occasions and 16 lead changes to boot.
Down four with four minutes to go, SVC had its work cut out for them. Tough play on both ends kept the Mountaineers alive and eventually knot the game up. With the game tied at 62 with under a minute to play, junior Josh Borders hit the shot of his life and what would be the dagger 3. There was some controversy about the shot clock expiring or not before the shot, but in the end the referees ruled it a made basket.
Saturday's championship contest certainly wasn't the prettiest game of basketball ever seen. Both teams struggled from the field, shooting under 40 percent and it was just a few made shots here and there that made the difference throughout.
SVC has been predicated on its defense all season and it played a key role in the win. The Mountaineers had 13 steals to the Hawks' five and converted off those turnovers on the other end with 26 points off of turnovers.
"When we needed plays and stops we got them and then Mike (Pierre) was able to leak out and get some of those transition buckets, which he's done for us all year. That's what turned the momentum," Engelstad said.
Mike Pierre led the way for SVC with 26 points and was named tournament Most Valuable Player after the game. Kyle Depollar added nine points off the bench. Andre Hodo had a nice all-around game as well. On top of his eight points, the center had nine rebounds and three steals.
On the Becker side, Kareem Davis was its top scorer with 20 points. Davis had a game-high four made three-point shots. Hawks star player Samuel Durodola was held to 10 points in the game. He played in just 24 minutes due to foul trouble in the second half.
Knowing Becker is the top competition the Mountaineers have in the NECC, makes the win a bit sweeter for SVC.
"They're always here at the end of the day. It's rewarding because to be the best, you've got to beat the best," Engelstad said.
SVC now awaits its placement in the Division III NCAA tournament. The seeding for the tournament is released Monday at 12:30 p.m.
Adam Aucoin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed at @AAucoin_Banner on Twitter.
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