WORCESTER, Mass. – Elms College junior forward David McDaniel (Plainfield, N.J.) scored a team-high 16 points and added 10 rebounds, but Salve Regina University used a 20-point, 11-board effort from Ryan Birrell (Scituate, R.I.) as the Seahawks posted a 70-59 victory over the Blazers in Saturday afternoon's Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Championship tournament semifinal contest in Worcester, Mass.
Elms, the third seed in the tournament, concludes its season 18-11 overall. Second seed Salve Regina improves to 21-9 on the season and advances to the ECAC Championship title game.
After a scoreless opening three minutes, Elms hammered out a 10-2 lead that included three second-chance baskets and a driving layup McDaniel to put the Blazers up eight. Offensive rebounding was key for Elms in the first half, as they pulled down 10 boards off the offensive glass, including four from senior forward Bryant Corcoran (Waterbury, Conn.).
Salve Regina answered, chipping away at the lead for most of the opening period and were led by William Smiley (Saunderstown, R.I.) who finished the half with six points and five rebounds. A jumper from Joshua Hohlfelder (Noank, Conn.) cut the lead to one at 24-23 with 3:29 remaining in the period. Two minutes later, Isiah Pringle (Queens, NY) hit a three-pointer, tying the game at 28-28. Elms closed out the half scoring five straight points, including a layup by Piere Simpson (East Hartford, Conn.) as Elms went into halftime up 33-28.
Both teams came out aggressive in the second half, with Salve Regina tying the game repeatedly but Elms responding each time. Down 41-37, the Seahawks doubled the Blazers scoring output over an 11 minute stretch, storming back to finally take the lead when Birrell hit a trey to put Salve Regina ahead 47-45 with 14:16 left in the game. The Seahawks never trailed after that, taking an 11-point advantage on a Birrell free-throw with 49 seconds left.
Birrell paced Salve Regina, as he scored 18 of his 20 points came in the second period. He also hauled in a game-high 11 rebounds and added nine assists to go along with two steals. Pringle finished with 16 points on 4 of 8 shooting from downtown. Smiley contributed nine points and nine rebounds, while Hohlfelder added ten points.
McDaniel led Elms with 16 points, ten rebounds and two blocks. Simpson scored nine of his 12 points in the first half while pulling down four boards. Corcoran finished with eight points and ten rebounds.