BRIDGEPORT, CONN. (March 6, 2011) – The C.W. Post men’s basketball team punched a ticket to the NCAA Tournament with a 68-64 win over the Bridgeport Purple Knights in the East Coast Conference Championship on Sunday. This is the third conference tournament championship in the past four years for the Pioneers, the first under first-year head coach Chris Casey.
Gilbert Montalvo (Astoria, N.Y.) hit is only made shot of the game with 1:40 left in the second half to give the Pioneers a 63-62 lead over the Purple Knights. The Pioneers held onto that lead down the stretch as Aaron Hall (Syracuse, N.Y.) and Tobin Carberry (Hamden, Conn.) hit clutch free throws, including two by Carberry with only one second remaining to set the final score of 68-64.
The Pioneers jumped out to an early 10-0 lead to open the game, highlighted by two long-distance three pointers by ECC Player of the Year, Stefan Bonneau (Middletown, N.Y.). The early lead grew to as large as 14 for the Pioneers in the early going before the Purple Knights put on a run of their own to eventually take the lead with 9:54 left in the opening frame, 24-23.
Both teams went back and forth over the course of those last nine minutes, exchanging leads and pulling even with each other at moments. The score went into the half tied at 36 after a lay-up by Dave Boykin allowed the Purple Knights to pull even.
Play was much of the same during the second half for both teams, trading blows and getting the best out of one another. The Purple Knights opened up a five point lead in the opening minutes after the half; however the Pioneers tied the game up again six minutes in with a jumper by Vaughn Allen (Mount Vernon, N.Y.). Bridgeport could never build a lead bigger than three from that point on.
Montalvo’s jumper at 1:40 left forced the Purple Knights to call a 30 second timeout coming down the court, but the timeout did not prove useful after the Pioneer defense made big stops down the stretch. Hall then hit a back-end of a one-and-one with 41 seconds remaining, and then Carberry went 4-4 from the line in the last eight seconds to seal the victory.
Allen finished the championship game with 16 points, leading four Pioneers in double-figures. He also contributed 10 rebounds to give him a double-double, along with four blocks on the defensive end. Billy Butler (Elmont, N.Y.) turned out a solid game as well with 14 points and six assists. Bonneau matched Butler with 14 points, while Hall poured in 13 behind a 6-8 day from the field.
Montalvo hit the clutch jumper at the end, dished out eight assists, and won his third ECC Tournament Championship as a member of the Pioneers.
In the end free throws proved to be crucial, as the Pioneers shot 73.3 percent from the line while the Purple Knights went 3-10 to shoot 30 percent from the stripe.
For their effort, Allen and Butler earned All-Tournament Team nods, with Bonneau joining them along with winning the tournament’s M.V.P. honors.
The Pioneers will now await their fate and placing in the 2011 NCAA Division II Tournament. Selections are expected to be made tonight, with the games to get underway next weekend at a determined site.