The nationally-regarded Saint Michael's College men's basketball team rallied from 13 points down in the second half before holding off a late Bentley University charge for a 69-66 victory on Saturday during Northeast-10 Conference play in the Ross Sports Center. The teams began the day separated by just one game in the NE-10 Northeast Division Standings, with the Purple Knights claiming third and the Falcons fourth.
At 17-6 overall and 12-6 in the league, the Purple and Gold has posted its highest overall win total since 2000-01 and matched its largest number of conference victories in 13 seasons. Saint Michael's, which is receiving one vote toward this week's National Association of Basketball Coaches' (NABC) national poll, is also 10-2 at home, reaching double figures in wins at the Ross Sports Center for the first time in seven seasons. Bentley slipped to 16-8 and 10-8, losing for the fourth time in seven games.
Junior James Cambronne (De Bary, Fla./The Winchendon School) posted a game-high 18 points for the hosts, going 4-of-9 from three-point range while also collecting eight rebounds and three blocks. Classmate Mike Thompson (Rosedale, N.Y./Christ The King Regional) tacked on 11 points, eight rebounds and three assists, and junior Corey Crawford II (Dover, Del./The Phelps School) had 11 points, five boards and five assists. Classmate Mike Holton Jr. (Portland, Ore./The Winchendon School) notched eight points and three helpers while passing Saint Michael's Athletic Hall of Fame member Bob Toner '74 (1,282) for 20th on the program's scoring list (1,287). First-year Matt Bonds (Accokeek, Md./North Point) snagged seven rebounds as the Purple Knights held Bentley to more than 16 points below their scoring average of 82.7, which was third in the conference.
Junior Keegan Hyland (South Portland, Maine/South Portland) led Bentley with 15 points off the bench, while senior Jasper Grassa (Lynn, Mass./Lynn Classical) totaled 13 points, six rebounds and three assists. Sophomore Tyler McFarland (Rockport, Maine/Cushing Academy) added 12 points and six boards, shooting 4-of-7 from three-point range.
Saint Michael's trailed 40-27 less than two minutes into the second half before junior Dom Ditlefsen (Portland, Ore./Sunset), Thompson and Cambronne all canned triples during a 51-second stretch, and sophomore Greg Grippo (Edison, N.J./Rutgers Prep) knocked down a three with 13:39 remaining to bring his team within 43-42. Bentley pushed its edge back out to seven, at 53-46, with 9:59 left, but a 10-2 spurt that took 1:33 to elapse put the hosts back in front, with Ditlefsen's hoop producing a 56-55 margin. After Bentley scored the next six points, the Purple Knights countered with a 13-0 run, as five straight points during that stretch from Bonds included a go-ahead tip-in at 2:55, and the hosts held a 69-61 lead with 15.7 seconds remaining when Crawford hit two freebies.
However, Grassa made an uncontested lay-up and forced a jump ball, with Bentley gaining possession, before hitting three free throws with 2.1 left, creating a 69-66 score. The Falcons then stole the ensuing inbounds pass at midcourt, but a desperate shot from the circle hit the left side of the backboard as time expired.
The Purple Knights nailed three straight three-pointers during a 2:18 span to grab a 9-3 lead by 16:24 of the opening half, eventually leading 13-6 when Crawford hit a pair of free throws at 12:49. After Saint Michael's held Bentley to a 2-of-12 start from the floor, McFarland knocked down two triples 21 seconds apart to spark a 9-0 run, but Cambronne later drained a three to put the Purple Knights back in front, 18-17, and first-year Zaire Williams' (Paterson, N.J./Newark Academy) steal and breakaway bucket made it 20-17 at 7:40. Crawford nailed a trey at 5:34 to snap another tie, making it 25-22, but Hyland scored six of his points during a 16-0 run that bridged halftime. Bentley took a 33-25 advantage into the locker room.
The Purple Knights hit the road for two of their final three regular-season games this winter, beginning with a Wednesday contest at Assumption College at 7:30 p.m.
Courtesy: St. Michael's Athletic Department
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