A quartet of thrilling NE10 battles overshadowed the first night of ECC league play, and we kick off the recap with a stunner in North Andover:


In a dogfight that produced 11 ties, 13 lead changes and nothing more than a two-possession separation all night, Franklin Pierce shocked Merrimack at the Volpe Center, outscoring its hosts 7-2 over the last 20 seconds to prevail. After Juvaris Hayes' second straight 3-point play had given the Warriors their last lead at 81-79 with 53 seconds to play, Falu Seck answered with an "And-1" of his own with 20 ticks left, giving the Ravens an 82-81 upper hand. But the definitive moment of this contest occurred on the very next play as Jaleel Lord misfired on a potential go-ahead 3-pointer. As Sean Fasoyiro gathered in the defensive rebound, he was flagrantly fouled, leading to a pair of successful free throws with four seconds remaining. Pierce maintained possession and on the ensuing inbounds, Jeremy Arthur was fouled and converted his two tosses to cinch the result at 86-81, rendering Lord's lay-up at the buzzer a mere footnote. Arthur led the balanced Ravens attack with 18 points, followed by Isaiah Moore (16 points, 4-6 from long range), Doyin Fadojutimi (14), Seck (13 points, four assists) and Fasoyiro (14 points, 11 rebounds off the bench). Hayes paced five Warriors in double figures with 28 points and four steals. He was flanled by Lord (14 points, nine rebounds in 40 minutes), Khalief Crawford (12 points), Mikey Watkins (12 in a reserve role) and Idris Joyner (10 points, 3-3 FG). Franklin Pierce - which shot 52% in slicing up the vaunted Merrimack zone - shot much better from beyond the arc (10-19 to 5-20) and the stripe (16-19 to 18-31) while distributing twice as many assists (18-9). The hosts stayed close by forcing more turnovers (21-11) while scoring more often in the paint (50-32) and on second chances (18-6).


Believe it or not, there was an even tighter game played on Long Island as Saint Rose outlasted old NYCAC rival Adelphi in a taffy pull that featured 14 ties, 19 lead changes and nothing more than a four-point spread after halftime. A trifecta by Jack Laffey with 2:38 remaining in the first half provided the largest divide of the night at 31-25, but right on cue, the Golden Knights responded with the last six markers of the period to equalize. The final 20 minutes saw the lead change hands no fewer than 16 times, along with 10 ties, as Matt Cerutti hit the go-ahead 3-ball with 37 seconds to go, putting the Golden Knights on top for good at 69-68. After a missed triple by Ronnie Silva (10 points), Cerutti was fouled and split a pair of foul shots to make it a 70-68 game. That's when two-time reigning NE10 Rookie of the Week Sekou Sylla came up huge, blocking Nick Cambio's tying lay-up attempt. Kamron Johnson (four bench points) then drove home the final nail, converting two freebies with seven seconds on the clock. Cerutti finished with 23 points and 11 rebounds for the winners, who also received 20 and nine, respectively, from Sylla (both men shot 8-12 from the field) and 14 points from Adam Anderson as they shot 50% from the floor. Laffey topped the Panthers' scorecard with 24 points (8-14 FG, 6-12 from downtown Garden City), while Conor McGuinness just missed a double-double with nine points and 10 assists. 


Chris Hudson's traditional 3-point play with 3:15 left snapped the final tie and lifted #14 Bentley past Southern New Hampshire at Spirou Field House for its eighth straight victory - the program's best start since the magical 34-0 run in 2007-08. In another tug-of-war that was distinguished by 12 ties and 14 lead swaps, the Penmen appeared poised for an upset after carving out a 66-57 lead with 10:56 to play. But the Falcons battled back, as the game became tied at 72, 74, 76 and 78 before Hudson's big play put the visitors ahead to stay. A 3-pointer from Colton Lawrence (career high-tying 24 points, six rebounds) at the 2:16 mark gave Bentley an 84-79 lead but SNHU crept within 85-82 and had a shot to tie. Alas, Daquaise Andrews' trey try was off the mark and the Falcons sank four of six at the foul line to secure the tough road win. Ryan Richmond totaled 28 points (11-12 FT) and six rebounds for the victors, who also saw Hudson garner a career-best 26 points (10-15 FG) and 13 rebounds while playing the entire contest. All five Penmen starters finished in double digits in defeat: Andrews (24 points, career-high 11 assists), Eamonn Joyce (18 points, 8-9 FG), Shawn Montague (11 points, 11 boards), Charlie Russo (10 points, personal-best five assists) and Ryogo Sumino (10 points, 4-6 FG). Bentley won despite being outshot (52%-46%) and doubled in the assist column (24-12). They made up precious ground on second chances (14-4), and primarily at the line (27-33 to 8-15), including a key stretch that included a bench technical late in the second half.


Will Moreton racked up 20 points and 11 rebounds, while Brandon Twitty (18 points) and Owen Chose (15) offered solid support as Stonehill held off fellow Massachusetts rival Assumption in North Easton, turning around a 31-30 halftime deficit. The Skyhawks saw their 52-42 lead midway through the second period shaved in half - 66-61 -after a Michael Speight lay-up with 1:10 remaining, but the Greyhounds would get no closer as Twitty scored on a lay-up 30 seconds later to provide the essential breathing room. Matthew Kelly was top dog for the Hounds with 15 points, while Speight managed 11. Assumption shot a shade better overall (47%-45%) and from long distance (7-21 to 4-20) but was outworked at the free-throw line (16-18 to 4-6).


The top three teams in the preseason ECC Coaches Poll all survived scares in their league openers. In Rochester, preseason Player of the Year Andrew Sischo amassed 32 points (12-18 FG) and 18 rebounds, while Deion Hamilton registered 11 of his 24 points (9-14 FG, 3-4 from afar) during a 20-7 game-ending run to power Daemen past Thruway rival Roberts Wesleyan for the 16th consecutive time (and 23rd in 24 meetings). A 17-6 Redhawks spree flipped a 42-37 deficit into a 54-48 advantage with 9:15 to go, and the hosts were still in front 63-58 with five-and-a-half minutes to play before the Wildcats came to life down the stretch, with Hamilton providing both the tying and go-ahead lay-ups that made it 67-65 with 2:46 on the clock. Roberts - which was buoyed by Isaiah Lewis' 25-point, four-assist, five-steal outing - couldn't make inroads in the waning moments as Daemen convered 5-of-6 at the stripe over the last 32 seconds to slam the door. Jeremy Redband was also a key player for the Wildcats, recording 13 of his 15 points in the second half, including a key baseline jumper in crunch time, while pulling down six rebounds and playing great defense. Peyton McLaurin cashed in 15 points, seven rebounds and four assists for the hosts, who also received 10 points and six boards from Armon Nasseri. Daemen - which shot 65% after halftime - has now won 11 straight at the Voller Center.


Vakas Iqbal scored eight points and Bakary Camara seven during an 18-2 game-closing flourish as Bridgeport pulled away from District of Columbia at Hubbell Gym, snapping its guests' five-game win streak in the process. A hotly-contested affair most of the night, the Purple Knights found themselves behind 39-34 at intermission and 41-34 in the opening moments of the final frame before embarking on a 14-1 tear to jump in front, 48-42 following a 3-pointer by Travis Robinson-Morgan (18 points, 7-11 FG, 4-6 from deep) with 14:21 left. Back came the Firebirds, however, and the game was up for grabs at 70-70 before Bridgeport used that timely 18-2 upswing - triggered by a Camara lay-up - over the final 5:19 to prevail. The P-Knights landed five in twin figures, including John Middleton (17 points off the bench, 6-8 FG, 4-5 from 3), Iqbal (17 points, 7-10 FG, six rebounds off the pine), Camara (11 points) and Jayden Iturmendi (10 in a reserve role, 4-4 FG). Juanye Colon was high man for UDC with 20 bench points (6-10 from beyond the arc), followed by Fatir Hines (13) and Zachary Olukanni (12 points, seven rebounds). The hosts were the more accurate long-range shooters (12-25 to 7-20). 


Kameron Murrell (8-10 FG, 6-7 from 3) and Demetre Roberts (12-14 FT, four assists) each pumped in 22 points during St. Thomas Aquinas' gritty win over Mercy in Dobbs Ferry. The #23 Spartans used a 13-0 flurry to flip an early 26-22 deficit into a 35-26 lead, and they stretched it out to 56-42 in the second stanza before the Mavericks unleashed a 20-4 surge, nosing in front 62-60 on a pair of Daquon Ervin free throws with 7:49 remaining. Kevin Lynch - who compiled 10 points and 14 rebounds - sank two of his own 21 seconds later to knot the score, then Murrell came through with a 3-pointer and another bucket as STAC reeled off nine unanswered to regain control at 69-62 with 5:13 to go. The Mavs stayed in touch down the stretch, but Aquinas nailed eight straight at the line over the final 1:02 to keep its hosts at arm's length. Osbel Caraballo contributed 10 points and seven rebounds for the winners, who were more prolific from distance (12-26 to 4-23) and outscored Mercy 24-13 off turnovers despite coughing it up more often itself (20-17). Matthew Alectus led a balanced Mavericks attack with 14 points (3-5 from 3 - his teammates were 1-18). He was supported by Dondre Barnes (11 points in reserve duty), Bryan Griffin (10 points, 11 rebounds) and Sal Barbetto (10 points, 3-4 FG). 


In the "someone has to win" game, injury-plagued New York Institute of Technology got the better of road-weary Queens at Alumni Hall to halt a six-game skid. Kieran Hamilton (seven rebounds) and Marcus Saint-Furcy (7-10 FG, five assists) paced a balanced Bears ledger with 16 points apiece as they outshot their guests (46%-33%) and fared better at the foul line (12-17 to 12-24), offsetting a 17-9 turnover disparity. NYIT trailed only once on the evening (6-4) before bolting out to a 34-14 lead en route to a 43-28 halftime cushion. The Knights - who have dropped nine straight, all away from home - came as close as 64-57 on a triple by Elijah Bovell (12 points) with 50 seconds on the clock before the Bears salted it away by making six of eight free throws over the last 48 seconds. Brandon Redendo logged 15 points (3-6 from downtown Old Westbury) off the bench, and Collins Onyeike flirted with a triple-double (10 points, eight rebounds, personal-best seven blocks) for NYIT, while Shomari Redd was the top threat for Queens with 15 points (5-7 FG, 2-2 from 3) off the bench.


Chris O'Reilly erupted for a career-best 20 points and six rebounds in reserve duty, and 11 of 12 players scored for Molloy in its comfortable win over depleted Long Island rival LIU Post in Brookville. Trailing 11-7 at the outset, O'Reilly banged four straight bombs to spark a 38-10 blitz, giving the Lions total control at 45-21. The margin bounced between 21 and 35 the entirety of the second half as Curtis Jenkins (16 points, 6-7 FG, 3-4 from 3, seven rebounds, seven assists), Mike Torre (13 points, 6-7 FG, 13 rebounds) and Will Muller (11, 7) all enjoyed productive outings for the winning side. Alonzo Ortiz-Traylor once again spearheaded the Pioneers' attack with 25 points and 11 rebounds in 40 minutes. Kendell Oglivie chimed in with 12 points and career-high eight rebounds in Post's fifth straight setback. Molloy was the superior shooting team (47%-30%), especially from beyond the arc (15-35 to 6-27) while boasting 22 of the game's 27 assists. But the stat of the game was rebounding as the Lions dominated the glass, 64-34, more than offsetting three times as many turnovers (18-6), which afforded the hosts a 22-4 scoring advantage.