The Keene State men’s basketball team fell just two points short of a three-peat. Eastern Connecticut State University took the Little East Conference championship title on Feb. 25 on their home turf. The Owls fell 70-72.
Senior Jeffrey Lunn led the Owls with 18 points and six rebounds, while fellow senior Matthew Ozzella had 15 points and nine rebounds. First-year Jake Collagan sank 13 and Ty Nichols had 11.
The Owls started off strong with an early lead, 12-6. Nichols and senior Lucas Hammel nailed a pair of three-point shots. Collagan also hit a three at 10:43, which just pushed the Owls further in front, 19-14. The Owls continued to widen their lead as Lunn scored inside back-to-back possessions, 29-16 with seven minutes left in the half.
Eastern’s Carlos Gonzalez finished 8-for-12 from the field and sank a pair of threes with just about five minutes left in the half. Eastern cut the lead 32-27, but the Owls wouldn’t let them take the lead. The Owls ended the half 42-33.
Keene State managed to stay on top in the beginning of the second half. Ozzella’s had a break away and hit a three with 12:32 left in the last half, pushing the Owls further, 54-41. The Warrior’s then sparked and outscored the Owls 20-7. The Owls answered back with the next six straight points, keeping the lead to six points, 69-63 KSC.
With the last four minutes of the game, Gonzalez led the Warriors to victory. He made three free throws, while Hugh Lindo hit a layup, bringing them within one. Jaquel Edwards tied the game at 70, but Gonzalez’s reverse layup ended the game with nine seconds left.
Keene State will have a second chance, they have received an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. Keene State will play Amherst on Friday, Mar. 3 in New Jersey. Eastern will receive the LEC automatic bid, and will also be playing MIT… David Munch of D3sports.com said, “We don’t have the usual game, we have more of a creative game.”
Shelby Iava can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org