PURCHASE – Despite a heck of an effort, the Mount Saint Mary College men’s basketball team (21-6) fell to No. 19 Purchase College (25-2), 100-82, in the Skyline Conference Championship finals Saturday evening, making Purchase the Skyline Champion for the second straight season and the fourth time in the last five years.
Purchase earns the Skyline Conference’s automatic bid into the NCAA Division III Men’s Basketball Championship Tournament with its win on Saturday. The Knights now await their fate, holding an outside chance at making the NCAA Tournament, but likely grabbing a spot in the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Division III Metro Championship Tournament.
Both teams looked even throughout much of the first half, with the Knights leading for much of the half. The Knights reached their largest lead at 26-22 after a jumper by senior forward Joe Henain. Later Jake Stevens III drained a three for the Panthers to tie the game and spark a game-changing run for the home team.
In just three minutes, the Panthers put together a 15-2 run to take a 37-26 lead. After a timeout, the Knights scored the next seven points to cut the deficit to four. Purchase made the final two baskets of the half to take a 41-33 lead into halftime.
Both teams scored back and forth for the first three minutes of the second frame. The Knights were unable to score for almost three minutes after this point, while Purchase scored on its next five possessions to improve its lead to 20 points. The Knights forced the Panthers into early foul trouble and were able to get back into the game, cutting the deficit to 11 points.
With the pace of the game slowed down, the Knights were within 10 after a layup by senior forward Chris Pisciotta. Trailing 80-68 with just under three minutes to go, the Knights started fouling, hoping Purchase would miss some free throws and allow the Knights to chip away at the difference. Unfortunately the Panthers shot well from the charity stripe, eventually pushing its lead to 18 points by the final buzzer.
Purchase’s David Haughton was named the Skyline Conference Championship Most Valuable Player. He put in an 11-point, eight-rebound effort on Saturday, raising his tournament total to 26 rebounds, a new Purchase men’s basketball tournament record. Stevens led the Panthers, who had six players score in double-digits, with 17 points off the bench. Justin Person banked 16 points, while Andre Nixon and 7-foot-2 center Joel Neri added 15 each. Neri completed a double-double with a game-high 10 rebounds. Ryan Lobban came in with 14 points and three blocked shots.
Four Knights scored in double-digits on Saturday, led by senior guard Donte Howell, whose aggressive play led him to 11 free throws to help him reach a game-high 21 points. He also dished out eight assists and grabbed seven rebounds. Senior guard Joe Stabach followed with 16 points, while Pisciotta added 14 points, eight rebounds and five assists. Henain matched with eight rebounds, also adding 13 points and a block. Sophomore forward Jason Oder played very well off the bench, contributing eight points and six boards.