Social Media Director
The Keene State Men’s Basketball team won the LEC championship against Eastern Connecticut this past Saturday.
The men’s basketball team played against Western Connecticut in the semi-finals and won with a score of 80-107. Senior and 2019 LEC Men’s Basketball Championship Tournament Most Outstanding Player Ty Nichols had 27 points, Sophomore James Anozie had 22 points, two-time LEC rookie of the week Edwin Ezedonmwen had 15 points and Sophomore had Sidi Diallo had 10 points.
The Owls faced the Eastern Connecticut Warriors in the finals after the Warriors beat UMass Dartmouth with a score of 79-74.
This was the third consecutive matchup of the Owls and Warriors in the LEC finals, and fifth consecutive appearance for the Owls in the LEC finals.
The game started off with a packed gym of 2,100 people. All-time leading scorer Ty Nichols ended the game with 37 points, eight rebounds and four assists. The Owls had help from Nyzair Rountree with nine points, five rebounds and two assists, and Sidi Diallo helped out with seven points and two assists.
The crowd booed when former Keene State player Jake Collagan, now a Warrior, had the ball. The rivalry between both teams showed when there was some back to back talk with players from both sides.
The game started off with the Owls taking a lead when Ezedonmwen hit a three and a slam dunk by Rountree, which got the crowd into the game. The Warriors came back with eleven points and kept the lead for the rest of the first half. The Owls kept fighting back and ended the first half with a one point difference, but the Warriors still kept the lead of 34-33.
Head coach Ryan Cain, who was also named LEC coach of the year, said, “The first half was a bit frustrating. We didn’t play good but we ended up turning it around.”
Keeneowls.com reported that Eastern Connecticut kept having buckets to start off the beginning of the second half, which put the score at 42-33 at the 16:32 mark. With 6:45 remaining, Miguel Prieto made it a four point game, 60-56, when he shot inside. With less than three minutes to go Nichols fired back and had a triple, making it a two-point game. With a minute and 20 seconds left on the clock, the Owls took their first lead of the game since the first two minutes of the game, thanks to Nichols taking a layup and made the score to 68-66.
The game got intense, which got the whole crowd on their feet and chanting with the last twenty seconds on the clock.
With 00:16 left, the Warriors fouled and KSC Owl Paul Mahon made two free throws to put them up 70-66. The Warriors put a fight up with the help of Corey Muckle, who made a three with seven seconds to go. The Owls kept the fire going and won the Little East title with a score of 69-72. This is the third time in the last five seasons the Owls have accomplished this. Cain said, “We didn’t play our best, but that’s a credit to Eastern (Connecticut), they’re extremely talented.”
This win makes this the second longest winning streak in school history.
The Owls have now received an automatic bid to the 2019 NCAA Division III Men’s Basketball tournament. They’ll be hitting the road to Clinton, New York, to face off Moravian College on March 1 for the first round of the tournament.
The team is up against a lot of challenging teams. Cain said, “The last time we were successful in the tournament, we played the preseason number one in the first round, and played number two, three and five teams in the country, so we’re used to playing really good teams.”
But Cain said they’re fortunate to be going to a place they’ve already played at, since it doesn’t happen often.
Nichols said he feels pretty confident in his team, “We’re on a winning streak right now, we just have to keep that going.” Although Nichols said they aren’t looking past any teams, he is looking forward to playing against Hamilton College. “They got us in the regular season, I didn’t play my best, we didn’t play our best… we just got to take care of business,” Nichols said.
Adriana Sanchez can be contacted