CHICOPEE, Mass. – Elms College junior guard Andre French (Torrington, Conn.) scored a team-high 20 points and junior forward David McDaniel (Plainfield, N.J.) added 18 points to help pace the Blazers to 73-68 victory over Lesley University in Saturday afternoon's New England Collegiate Conference (NECC) men's basketball game at Picknelly Arena.
With the win, Elms snaps its two-game losing streak and improves to 11-7 on the season, 6-3 in league play, while Lesley falls to 7-10 overall, 4-6 in NECC action. The win also marks the 199th career win for head coach Ed Silva who is in his 11th season at Elms.
Clinging to a 63-59 lead with 2:02 remaining in regulation, McDaniel hit two free throws to give Elms a 65-59 edge. Following a turnover by Lesley, Elms' freshman guard Piere Simpson (Middletown, Conn.) hit a pair of foul shots at the 1:22 mark to give the Blazers an eight point cushion.
The Lynx answered when Mike Kaufman (Boca Raton, Fla.) swished a trey with 46 seconds remaining to pull Lesley to within five at 67-62. French then hit the second of two free throws and senior guard Bryant Corcoran (Waterbury, Conn.) added a fast-break layup following a steal to give the Blazers a 70-62 lead with 29 ticks on the clock.
A layup by Lesley's John Sanchez (Carson, Calif.) and a dunk by Elms' junior Darius Griffin (Winter Haven, Fla.) kept the score at an eight point differential in favor of the Blazers before a jumper with four seconds left by the Lynx's Justin Rosa (East Brunswick, N.J.) narrowed the gap back to six at 72-66. Elms' junior guard Charles Bason (Riverdale, Md.) added a free throw before Sanchez converted a layup as time expired to set the final score at 73-68 and give Elms its 14th victory over the Lynx in the last 15 meetings.
Sanchez finished with a game-high 29 points, hitting on 10 of 12 from the charity stripe, while Bryant Itonyo (Medford, Mass.) added 17 points on the strength of 5 for 9 shooting from beyond the arc. Kris Bennett (Las Vegas, Nev.) exerted his strength on the glass hauling in a game-high 15 rebounds in addition to blocking three shots in the losing effort. Kaufman and Rosa finished with seven points in the loss.
Lesley shot 45.8-percent from the field including a 50.0-percent clip in the second frame, while Elms finished the game with a 41.2 field goal percentage.
Elms hit six first-half three pointers and took a 34-30 lead into intermission. Elms led throughout the entire first half and built its lead to as many as 12 before Lesley chipped away to pull to within four at halftime.
The Lynx continued to climb back into the game as Itonyo hit three treys in the opening 5:51 of the second stanza. His swish at the 14:09 mark gave Lesley its first lead of the game at 44-42. The Lynx never led by more than two as Elms used an 8-0 run midway through the frame to help build the Blazers' lead back to seven (55-48 with 7:20 to play).
Sanchez canned a trey with 4:42 remaining in the contest to narrow the deficit to two at 58-56 but that's as close as Lesley got as Elms used clutch free throw shooting to help seal the victory.
Elms outscored Lesley, 30-18 in the paint and converted 18 Lesley turnovers into 24 points as senior guard Daniel Gonzalez (East Windsor, Conn.) and Griffin totaled nine points each off the bench for the Blazers. Griffin added a team-high six rebounds, while French added five steals and Bason dished out four assists.
Elms returns to action on Feb. 2 when it hosts Mitchell College in a NECC matchup at 8:00 p.m. at Picknelly Arena.