Rhode Island College celebration
Photo by Charlie Quigg '09
RIC's John Weir (left) and Kaseem Johnson (right) are congratulated by their fans after the Anchormen's 75-73 win over Keen State

Rhode Island Edges Keene State to Advance to NCAA Sectional Finals

By Justin Long

March 9, 2007

AMHERST, MA – The Rhode Island College men’s basketball team overcame an eight-point second-half deficit to defeat conference rival Keene State College in the NCAA Sectional Semifinals at LeFrak Gymnasium. The Anchormen improve to 27-3 and will face Amherst College in the Sectional Finals Saturday at 7 p.m., while the Owls end their season at 25-6.

Junior David Sontag (Mt. Vernon, NH) gave Keen State a 9-7 lead when he buried a three-pointer early in the game, and the Owls did not relinquish their lead until sophomore Cameron Stewart (Newport, RI) knocked down a jumper to give the Anchormen a 31-30 lead with four minutes remaining in the half. Rhode Island led by as many as five in the final minutes of the first frame, but junior Travon Little (Danbury, CT) connected for a three-pointer to cut his team’s deficit to two points before heading into the locker room.

Keene State shot 37.9 percent from the floor in the first half, while Rhode Island shot 48.6 percent. Both teams struggled from beyond the arc, with the Owls connecting on 25 percent (3-for-12) of their threes and the Anchormen knocking down only 15.4 percent (2-for-13). Keene State was able to stay in the game with 81.3 percent shooting from the charity stripe, taking advantage of its 16 trips to the line.

The Owls opened up the second half on a 12-2 run to take a 50-42 lead after just four minutes of play. Rhode Island came within one point several times, but was unable to regain the lead until sophomore Kaseem Johnson (New Haven, CT) put in a layup to give his team a 73-72 lead with 1:46 showing on the clock. Neither team managed to score for the next minute and 40 seconds, when senior tri-captain Brian Stanko (Swansea, MA) hit a pair of free throws to increase the Rhode Island lead to three points with just four seconds remaining in the game.

The Anchormen elected to foul Sontag on the ensuing inbound to prevent the Owls from tying the game with a three. Sontag made his first attempt from the line and intentionally missed the second. Little came down with the offensive rebound but was unable to connect on the put-back, as Rhode Island held on for the 75-73 victory.

Sophomore Tirrell Hill (Bronx, NY) led the Anchorman offense, picking up 16 points on 7-for-13 shooting, while senior tri-captain Kinsey Durgin (Greenwood, ME) added 13 points. Sophomore Bobby Bailey (Fall River, MA) and senior tri-captain Kamari Williams (Springfield, MA) each chipped in with nine points, while Stanko and senior Anthony Pierlioni (Plainville, CT) each chipped in with eight.

Little led all scorers with 23 points on 9-for-17 shooting and pulled down eight rebounds. Sophomore Tyler Kathan (Ludlow, VT) had the game’s only double-double, picking up 11 points and a game-high 13 rebounds while adding three assists, three steals and a pair of blocks. Sontag rounded out the scorers in double figures, finishing with 12 points and five rebounds.