Here's my recap from the SUNYAC board. Please remember I am a Plattsburgh Cardinal fan so my reporting is a little biased in their direction. It's a long report but a great game like that one deserves a long write up.
Congratulations to the Eastern Connecticut Warriors, their fans, and Little East fans for the year they had. Always and only classy people and posters are found here.
Plattsburgh State Cardinals 70 Eastern Connecticut Warriors 60
An excellent game on Saturday in Memorial Hall in Plattsburgh between two well coached teams that were both quick and athletic, both played great defense and both left it all on the court as they were looking to advance to the Sweet 16.
Every game has an outstanding performance and the story of this game was the inspired play of Plattsburgh senior John Perez. Denied the opportunity to play in his first NCAA tournament last year when he was injured late in the regular season, JP was really looking forward to Friday's first round game against MIT. Unfortunately some rather strange calls by the men in stripes had John sitting out large portions of both halves of Friday's game. Expecting to play at least 30 minutes, if not more, he was limited to 10 minutes of court time and his disappointment was clearly evident. It was certainly not how he had envisioned his first NCAA game in a Cardinal uniform to turn out. I told him after the game that the good news was that he would be well rested for the Warriors since he took the night off. He's normally a super nice guy, but today he became a monster as he scored 21 points and pulled down 15 rebounds to record yet another double-double and lead the Cardinals into the Sectionals next weekend.
The first half was a closely contested affair that featured 4 ties and 8 lead changes. The largest lead occurred when the Warriors' Kevin Leumene scored 5 straight points to break a 17-17 tie and put Eastern up 22-17 with 8:15 left in the period. Leumene had entered the game for the first time at the 12 minute mark and once again provided a spark off the bench. In Friday's contest he re-entered the game in the 2nd half and played a major role in reversing a deficit against Husson that enabled the Warriors to advance to the 2nd round. On Saturday with the score tied he nailed a 3 pointer and followed that with a drive to the hoop to give the Warriors that 5 point lead.
The Cardinals would respond with another inside move by John Perez, his 5th basket of the period, and on their next possession Mike Mitchell drove to the basket for the hoop and the harm to tie the score once again. The Cardinals would regain the lead 25-24 only to see Leumene have a deja vu moment, as he again scored 5 unanswered points with a 3-ball and a short jumper in the paint. He had scored 10 points and had been on the court for less than 9 minutes. A jumper by the Cardinal hero from Friday's game, Ezra Hodgson, narrowed the lead and Perez hit 1 of 2 from the line to make it 29-28 with 27 seconds on the clock. The Warriors set up for a final shot and after looking to make one from behind the arc by their 3 point specialists, were forced to change direction under fierce defensive pressure from Plattsburgh. The Warriors' Trachone Preston tried to hoist one as the clock wound down and at the last second, literally, whipped a pass inside to Hugh Lindo who was left uncovered for a brief instant. Lindo got the shot off, then the buzzer went off and the Warriors trotted off the court with a 31-28 edge at the break. Lindo was a rebounding machine in the first half as the freshman had 14 rebounds and 8 points. Perez was the leader for the Cardinals as he had 11 points to 1 up the Warriors Leumene.
The Cardinals didn't waste any time tying the contest back up and it was obvious that the game plan was going to continue to work the ball inside to Perez. After Perez rebounded a Warrior missed field goal the Cards came down and quickly got him the ball. the result was an old fashioned 3 point play and that scenario would repeat itself a few minutes later when JP would do the same thing. Like two boxers going toe to toe, the teams would fight through 5 more ties and 5 more lead changes. Down 35-31 Perez would get his 2nd "And One" bucket of the half. The Warriors' Preston would score off a drive to make it 37-34 only to have the Cardinals' Eddie Correa bury a deep one to tie it up again with 15:43 to play. For the next 4 minutes neither team had more than a 2 point lead, when tied at 46, the Cardinals got another 3 pointer from Ezra Hodgson to take a lead they would never give up. There was 11:27 left in the game at that point and Eastern looking to tie it up came up empty on their next possession. Xavier Thomas got the rebound and when Plattsburgh got the ball down to their end it ended up going out of bounds off an Eastern Player. It seemed so insignificant at the time but it gave the Warrior's coaching staff an opportunity to call time out. Plattsburgh had to inbound the ball from the left side of their baseline and off a designed play that the Cardinals' Coach Curle set up during that time out a high lob pass was thrown to the rim by point guard Chris Manning. The pass was perfect, the recipient was the X-Man Thomas, who timed his leap, caught the alley and threw down the oop as he was fouled by Leumene. It brought the Memorial Hall crowd screaming to their feet and they rose again as Xavier made the free throw to complete the 3 point play. Just like that the Cardinals had the largest lead of the game and it looked like they were ready to roll, while the house was rockin.
Not so fast, said Leumene and Lindo, as the L&L boys made back to back buckets to close within 2 points. John Perez too the rescue with another inside move and then Shamoy McIntosh decided to make his presence felt. McIntosh was the Cardinals' leading scorer for most of the season until an injury slowed him down some over the past 3 weeks. He missed the conference tournament last weekend but returned to the lineup with 15 points in Friday's contest, basically his season's average before the injury. On Saturday he had been relatively quiet with only 3 points in the first half. Now with the game on the line it was time take the stage. Trachone Preston scored to once again bring Eastern within 2 points at 54-52. Plattsburgh called time out, McIntosh entered the game, and 20 seconds later he drained a 3 pointer with the defense right on him. The Warriors missed a layup, got the rebound and missed again and McIntosh was fouled at the other end, driving to the hoop. He made the free throws and after both teams misfired McIntosh swished another jumper to make it 61-52 with 3:51 left to play. The Computer had scored 7 unanswered points to open up the new largest lead of the night.
Eastern wasn't dead though and Preston buried a deep three to cut it to a 2 possession lead. Mike Mitchell was fouled and made 2 free throws but Mike Garrow scored, was fouled and his free throw cut the lead to 63-58 with 2:20 to go. McIntosh was fouled again and made the free throws again, but Garrow came right back with another short jumper to cut it to 65-60 with 1:46 left. Still plenty of time for the Warriors to pull out a win. I watched this club do just that to Oswego 2 years ago when Brian Salzillo made the 3 pointer in double OT to send the Lakers home for the season.
Chris Manning wasn't going to let that happen though, and was looking to erase some bad memories of a week ago. The fastest man on the floor took matters into his own hands and drove to the basket and scored to make it a 3 possession game with 1:10 left on the clock. And then for good measure Chris stole the ball as the Warriors were bringing the ball up the floor and fed a breaking Mike Mitchell who made the layup and the lead was 69-60 and this one was history. Mitchell did go to the line one more time and made 1 of 2 to make the final margin 70-60.
John Perez, as mentioned at the beginning, led all scorers with 21 points to go with his 15 rebounds. JP not only got his double-double in his first "real" NCAA tournament game (since he was taken out of last night's contest by the whistleblowers) but he played the entire 40 minutes, was excellent on the defensive end and was only called for 1 foul. Amazing what a difference a day makes.
Shamoy McIntosh finished with 14 points, 3 rebounds, 2 steals, and 1 assist. he also played great defense especially on the 3 point shooters from the Warriors.
Mike Mitchell came off the bench to score 11 points going 3x4 from the field and 4x6 from the line. He had a big 3 pointer that brought Plattsburgh back from their final deficit to tie the score at 46.
Yesterday's MVP, Ezra Hodgson only took six shots today but made three of them and two were from long distance including the one that gave us the lead for good. Ezra ended up with 8 points, 4 rebounds, and 1 assist while playing 39 minutes.
Chris Manning once again directed the offense superbly and was 4x5 from the field scoring 8 points. Chris had 5 assists, 3 rebounds, and 3 steals in 24 minutes on the court.
Xavier Thomas only had 5 points but none were bigger than the alley oop dunk that shook the rafters. The XMan also pulled down 6 rebounds in 17 minutes of playing time.
Just like Friday's game the Cardinals outshot their opponents. They were 25x54 from the field (46.3%), 5x12 from long range (41.7%) and 15x25 from the line (60%). The Warriors were 26x67 (38.8%) from the field, 5x28 (17.9%) from 3 point land, and 3x5 from the line (60%)
I said in my pregame report that this game could come down to a three point shooting contest or won by the team that had the fewest turnovers. To show you how evenly matched the teams were consider these stats. Both teams only made 5 three point buckets (but the Cardinals did so with quite a few less attempts) and they each had 9 turnovers. They also finished dead even in rebounds with 38 boards each. Each team also registered just 8 assists and that happened because we witnessed a lot of one on one play.
The Warriors were led by Kevin Leumene and Trachone Preston who both scored 14 points. Leumene also hauled down 7 rebounds had 3 blocks and a steal. He was the only Warrior player who was effective from long range as he canned 2 of his 3 attempts. Preston had 3 assists and 2 rebounds and 2 three pointers as well but took 11 shots from downtown.
Hugh Lindo was the most impressive player on the floor for the Warriors, along with Leumene. Lindo gave the crowd his best Dennis Rodman impression as he just snatched everything in sight that wasn't near the Cardinals' John Perez. Lindo ended up with 10 points and 20 rebounds to capture honors in that category. I'm sure Warrior fans are drooling over the prospect of having him cleaning the glass over the next 3 years. Having Leumene for 2 more years as well, just makes it even better.
Mike Garrow in his last game as a Warrior also hit double figures with 13 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists. He also struggled from beyond the arc going 0-6 there.
Senior Brian Salzillo would have preferred to go out on a better note than 2x11 from the field. The sharpshooter had a great career though and sometimes the rock just doesn't fall the way you'd like it too. He ended up with 5 points and had 1 three pointer in 7 attempts.
In the end it may have been the 3 point shot that cost the Warriors the game. It seemed when they were working the ball and looking to go inside they had success. Lindo had 8 points in the 1st half but they quit going there (he ended up with 10) and the shots from long range weren't falling. The Cardinals didn't give them a lot of open looks and contested the three point line quite well, but the Warriors kept firing them up anyway. The Cardinals were also having trouble finding open looks from beyond the arc due to the defensive pressure the Warriors were applying. So the Cardinals instead, looked to Perez inside, and had such success there that they kept going to him quite often. He wanted the ball and the Cardinal point guards kept giving it to him. In the end that was a large reason why they walked off the court with the win.
Eastern Connecticut ends their year with a 23-7 record and another very successful season is in the books. They have been one of the premiere teams in the Little East and it looks like they have some great talent to keep their spot near the top of the conference. Good luck to them in the future. I told the Coach's family before the game that it was going to be a heck of a game and it was. I also said I like to see one similar to the Oswego game of 2 years ago only with a different outcome. We didn't quite get the barnburner that the Lakers-Warriors game was but it was still well worth the price of admission. And I did get my wish about having a different outcome.
Plattsburgh improves to 24-5 and will meet the Amherst Lord Jeffs for the second year in a row in the Sweet 16, probably in Amherst once again.
Who makes out these damn schedules anyway?