Chris Kendrick (@CKendrick86)
CHICOPEE, Mass. – The Elms College men's basketball team overcame an 20-point, second-half deficit to rally past visiting Mitchell College, 74-69, in a New England Collegiate Conference (NECC) battle at Picknelly Arena Saturday afternoon. With the win, the Blazers improve to 4-13 on the season and 4-6 in conference play, while the Mariners fall to 3-7 in the NECC, and 3-15 overall.
The Blazers captured an opening 3-0 lead behind a trey from freshman DeAngelo Cousar (Bowie, Md.), but the Mariners responded with an 8-0 run. Elms senior Symon Smith (Oklahoma City, Okla.) knocked down a three-point followed by a layup from classmate Conny Ihearahu (Largo, Md.) to even the tilt at 10-10. The sides traded the lead as a drive from senior Trifon Bish (St Catherine, Jamaica) put the Blazers up 13-12 until Mitchell junior Mack Bertram-Gregory (Stockton, Calif.) jarred a pair of treys to hand the Mariners the lead for the next 32 minutes of action. Elms cut the lead to 18-17, but the Mariners used a 15-7 run over the next five minutes, capped by back-to-back threes from junior Alan Morgan (Port St. Lucie, Fla.) and sophomore Tre Holmes (Bridgeport, Conn.) to build a 33-24 lead. A trey from Morgan pushed the lead to 38-28 with 2:26 on the clock, but Elms closed the half on behind five straight points from Cousar to trim the gap to 38-33 at the break.
The Mariners started strong in the second half with a 10-0 run over the first three minutes, featuring five points from freshman Hasani Williams (Miramar, Fla.), to develop a 48-33 lead. At the 11:55 mark, Bertram-Gregory connected on his sixth trey of the game to give the Mariners their largest lead, 59-39. The Blazers mounted their improbable comeback over the next six minutes, orchestrating a 20-5 run, highlighted by eight points from freshman Spencer Douglas (Hollywood Hills, Fla.), to trim the gap to 64-59 with 5:48 to play. Bish carried the Blazers on a 9-4 run with eight points over the next three minutes to even the game at 68-68 at the 3:21 mark. Elms grabbed a 70-68 lead on a bucket from Bish with 1:19 to go. A free throw from Williams cut the gap to 70-69, but Smith knocked down a layup and a pair of free throws to seal the 74-69 comeback victory.
"I thought it was a great job by our guys of not giving up and continuing to fight and battle, and ultimately persevering at the end," said Elms Head Coach Rob Southall. "When we were down, I told the guys that we just need to focus on our defensive end, get some deflections, get some stops, and get some baskets in transition. When we started to comeback, we did a great job of sharing the ball, whenever we share the ball, we play really well. We are tough to defend when we are able to move the ball, and our energy level picks up once everyone starts touching the ball and it leads to a bucket. Our conference opponents are really trying to take away Symon [Smith] and Conny [Ihearahu], and I think they have done a great job creating for their teammates and getting them rolling, and then they come and create scoring opportunities for themselves. Our bench has been doing a great job, a couple different guys have stepped up the last few games, and they done a great job working hard in practice and they have to keep grinding. [Daniel Webster] is going to be a tough place to play. Daniel Webster at home is a different team than Daniel Webster on the road. We know we can play with them, we just need to focus on keeping our composure and executing our play and allowing them to dictate play."
The Blazers had four scorers in double figures, paced by Bish, who matched a career-high with 22 points, along with seven rebounds, three assists and three steal. Smith netted 19 points, shooting 7-of-12 from the floor, with five rebounds and four assists. Cousar added 14 points, while Ihearahu fell one rebound shy of a double-double with 11 points and nine boards. Douglas chipped in eight points, four rebounds and two steals off the bench.
Mitchell was led by double-double efforts from Williams and Santiago. Santiago tallied 14 points with 10 rebounds, while Williams grabbed a game-high 15 rebounds with 12 points. Bertram-Gregory poured in a team-high 18 points, and Morgan dished out a game-high 10 assists with eight points and three rebounds. Sophomore Geary McLeod (Meriden, Conn.) had 10 points, eight rebounds, three assists and three steals in the loss.
The Mariners controlled the rebounding column, 45-30, while the Blazers edged Mitchell in points in the paint, 34-28. Elms connected on 48.2% (27-of-56) from the floor, including 35% (7-of-20) from three-point range, and 68.4% (13-of-19) from the foul line. Mitchell shot 41.8% (28-of-67) from the field, 39.3% (11-of-28) from three-point, and 22.2% (2-of-9) from the free throw line.
The Blazers will look to remain in the win column with a conference road trip to Daniel Webster Tuesday for a 7:30 p.m. tip. The Mariners host John Jay in non-conference play Monday at 6:00 p.m.