Chris Kendrick (@CKendrick86)
CHICOPEE, Mass. – The Elms College men's basketball team came up short in their 2016-17 home finale, falling to visiting Southern Vermont College, 75-72, in a New England Collegiate Conference (NECC) battle at Picknelly Arena Thursday night. The Blazers drop to 4-20 on the season, and 4-11 in conference play, while the Mountaineers improve to 13-2 in the NECC, and 15-9 overall.
Prior to tip-off, the Blazers honored their four departing seniors, Trifon Bish (St. Catherine, Jamaica), Conny Ihearahu (Largo, Md.), Symon Smith (Oklahoma City, Okla.), and Dimitri Tessier (Brockton, Mass.), for their contributions to the men's basketball program.
Tied at 4-4, the Blazers held the lead early as a three-pointer from Tessier and a fast-break dunk by Bish pushed Elms to an 11-8 lead. Back-to-back buckets from Southern Vermont senior Rayshawn Taylor (Silver Spring, Md.) put the Mountaineers ahead 12-11, but the Blazers regained control with a 9-5 run. After Southern Vermont tied the score at 21-21 behind a steal and layup from sophomore Kyle Depollar (Rockville, Md.), the Blazers kept the Mountaineers at bay behind baskets from freshman Diomanni Fernandez (Tamarac, Fla.) and Ihearahu. Southern Vermont grabbed a late lead on a three-pointer from junior Mike Pierre (Melrose, N.Y.) and free throws from sophomore Josh Borders (Miami, Fla.) to take a 30-29 lead into halftime.
The Blazers opened the second half with a trey from Smith to possess a 32-30 advantage until a three-point play from Taylor capped an 11-5 run to put Southern Vermont ahead, 41-37. Elms evened the score at 41-41 on layups from Ihearahu and Bish, but the Mountaineers responded with a 13-2 run, paced by four-point efforts by Taylor and senior Davante Jordan (Great Mills, Md.), to race to 54-43 advantage. Trailing 57-46 at the 8:38 mark, the Blazers battled back with a 12-1 run over the next three minutes, powered by nine points from Smith, to tie the scoreboard at 58-58. After a three-point play from Ihearahu forced a tie at 61-61, Southern Vermont pulled ahead with a 7-2 run with 3:19 to play. Elms came within one possession behind late three-pointers from Smith, but Jordan converted a layup with 10 seconds to play to lift the Mountaineers to a 75-72 victory.
Smith led all scorers with 30 points, shooting 5-of-11 from three-point range, with five rebounds and two assists. Ihearahu registered his tenth double-double of the season, grabbing a game-high 14 rebounds with 13 points and three blocks. Bish added 12 points and three steals, while Fernandez tallied 10 points with five rebounds.
Southern Vermont had four scorers in double figures, paced by 22 points, nine rebounds and three assists from Taylor. Senior Nate Goldsmith (Capitol Heights, Md.) recorded 11 points and eight rebounds, while Borders added 11 points and three rebounds. Pierre produced 10 points, six rebounds, three assist and three steals in the win.
The Blazers edged the Mountaineers on the glass, 37-35, while the Southern Vermont outscored Elms in the paint, 32-26. The Blazers connected on 41.3% (26-of-63) from the floor, including 34.6% (9-of-26) from three-point range, and 52.4% (11-of-21) from the foul line. The Mountaineers shot 43.4% (23-of-53) from the field, 33.3% (5-of-15) from three-point, and 82.8% (24-of-29) from the free throw stripe.
The Blazers will wrap up the 2016-17 season with a conference road trip to Lesley University Saturday for a 6:30 p.m. tip. Southern Vermont travels to Daniel Webster for their regular season finale Saturday at 1:00 p.m.