Two wildly exciting games highlighted the 2014 NEC Tournament Quarterfinals

Last night was a different night for me. For the first time in several years, I didn’t have an LIU Brooklyn NEC quarterfinal game to attend so this year I decided to sit back, turn on NEC Front Row and watch all four games happen at once. Man, was it fun! If you happened to miss to out, you picked the wrong night to have plans. Here were some of the highlights and lowlights of the NEC Quarterfinal round.

Game of the Night: St. Francis Brooklyn at Mount St. Mary’s

St. Francis Brooklyn had this game in the bag. They had a 12-point halftime lead that increased to 17 points in the second half. They had an 11-point lead with 1:53 to go before totally self-destructing in the end. They committed two of the worst fouls you would expect a veteran team to make. Ben Mockford committed an intentional foul on Gregory Graves which costed SFBK three points in that possession and then Brent Jones fouled Sam Prescott shooting a three and he hit them all to get within five with 54 seconds to go. Then costly SFBK turnovers and missed free throws give the Mount one last opportunity to win. Lowell Ulmer who really had a good game, missed two critical free throws with eight seconds left and left the door open for the Mount to steal the game and that is exactly what they did with a Rashad Whack three from near the top of the key with two seconds left and destroyed the hearts of the Terriers and their fans with a 72-71 win at home. The fans rushed the court after that incredible win. It was a brutal loss for the Terriers but they can only blame themselves for some of terrible decisions they made near the end of this one.

Upset of the Night: #6 Saint Francis (PA) defeating #3 Bryant

Neither team was coming into this game on any kind of a hot streak. SFU had lost three of their last four and Bryant had lost four of their last six. Bryant seemed to be going in with confidence after beating LIU Brooklyn on Saturday by 19. After an early seven-point lead for Bryant, SFU stormed back and actually took a three-point lead into the locker room at the half. Bryant would come out of the break hot and take a 49-38 with over nine minutes left to go. But back came SFU with a 13-1 run to retake the lead with 3:37 left. SFU would take the lead for good on a Ronnie Drinnon layup with 43 seconds left and a missed three by senior Corey Maynard and then a turnover on the offensive rebound by Alex Francis sealed Bryant’s fate. For the second year in a row, Bryant gets knocked off in the first game at home. It was a sad way to see seniors Francis and Maynard go out like that. Give SFU their due, they played gritty, tough basketball and got big shots and rebounds when they needed them. Congrats to them.

The Other Games

#2-seed Wagner cruised to a 24-point win at home against #7-seed Central Connecticut State. The player of the game was Wagner’s Kenneth Ortiz who scored 21 points and hit 3 of 6 threes. Kyle Vinales scored 20 off the bench for CCSU.

#1 seed Robert Morris were in a fight with pesky #8 seed Fairleigh Dickinson for most of the game. RMU led only by two at the half but were able to keep them at arms length through the entire second half to win 60-53. Lucky Jones scored 19 points and grabbed seven rebounds in the win. Anthony Myers-Pate also put in ten points. FDU senior Sidney Sanders Jr. did all he could for the Knights with 16 points on 16 shots. Scotter Gillette scored 15 and senior Mathias Seilund scored 12 in his final game for FDU.

Player of the Night: Ronnie Drinnon (SFU)

The SFU sophomore forward had a monster game for the Red Flash. He had a double-double where he scored 20 points and pulled down 18 rebounds. He was all over the place and even when he got his fourth foul with 8:34 to go, he didn’t let up in his play and manage not to commit that crucial fifth foul. It was an amazing performance from him.

Head-scratching Performance of the Night: Karvel Anderson (RMU)

The newly-minted 2013-14 NEC Player of the Year didn’t play like it in the quarterfinal round. He finished with no points in 28 minutes of action. He only put up only three shots in the game and was benched by RMU head coach Andy Toole late in the second half. This is the same player who was coming in on a scoring tear of late having at least 21 points in each of the last four games including 31 points a week and a half ago versus St. Francis Brooklyn. Look for him to be much more aggressive this Saturday in the NEC semifinals.

Other stars of the night:

Rashad Whack (MSM): 28 points including the game-winner three with two seconds left

Lowell Ulmer (SFBK): 18 points on 11 shot attempts

Kenneth Ortiz (Wagner): 21 points on 5 of 15 shooting including 3 made threes.

Up ahead:

The NEC Tournament continues on Saturday with the semifinals. In game one at 12 pm, it is Mount St. Mary’s at Wagner. In game two at 2 pm, it is Saint Francis (PA) at Robert Morris. It should be two fun games to watch. I’m hoping to be in Staten Island along press row, covering the Mount-Wagner game.

I expect both home teams to win these games which would set up a #1 vs #2 final in Moon Township, PA on Tuesday with Wagner taking on Robert Morris for the right to be the NEC representative in the NCAA Tournament.

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