The NCAA Regional quarterfinals produced some dramatic results, including both Philadelphia schools falling to Manchester clubs. And one of those games turned out to be historic:
SOUTHERN NEW HAMPSHIRE 88 HOLY FAMILY 80
For the first time in East Regional history, the #8 seed knocked off the #1 as defending champ Southern New Hampshire jumped on host Holy Family early and thwarted a late rally to claim its sixth straight victory, and fourth straight regional conquest in impressive fashion. At the heart of the shocker was a brilliantly efficient performance from Rodney Sanders, who delivered 30 points on 8-11 shooting, 6-9 from 3-point land and 8-9 from the foul line. The senior lefty added six rebounds and four steals to his stellar stat line as the Penmen spoiled the first-ever NCAA home game for the #23 Tigers, who had won four straight overall and all 12 of its games at the Campus Center this season to establish an NCAA-era, program-record 26 overall victories. SNHU trailed just once (3-0) before unleashing a 23-6 blitz, fueled by 13 Sanders points, to claim the lead for keeps. An 11-3 flourish over the final 2:10 of the half expanded the advantage to 44-24, and it crested at 76-55 with five-and-a-half minutes to play before Holy Family showed signs of late life, rattling off 13 unanswered, capped by a Derrick Stewart 3-pointer, to make it 76-68 at the 3:33 mark. The Tigers would get no closer, however, as Sanders followed with a pair of free throws more than a minute later to spark a 7-3 spurt and put the game out of reach at 85-71 with just over a minute left. Jerome Harris notched a season high-tying 14 points off the bench for the winners, nailing 8-9 from the stripe after going 7-9 on the season coming in. Chris Walters (seven rebounds, four blocked shots) and Adrian Oliveira (six assists) each dropped a dozen for Southern New Hampshire, which outshot its hosts 46%-25% in the opening stanza, scored twice as often on second chances (18-9) and was vastly superior from the foul line on the night (28-32 to 15-28) in hanging 88 points on the scoreboard, the most all season against the nation's stingest defensive club. Marvin Crawford finished his career with a 27-point explosion, while Stewart and Turhan Griffin (perfect 5-5 shooting from deep) provided 15 points apiece in their final collegiate games. Reggie Charles also reached double figures with 10 points in his finale, though he was saddled with foul trouble throughout the contest. One-third of Holy Family’s losses this season came at the hands of SNHU.
ST. THOMAS AQUINAS 92 SOUTHERN CONNECTICUT 90
The most thrilling game of the day was the lid-lifter as St. Thomas Aquinas squeaked past Southern Connecticut in its NCAA Tournament debut, earning its region-best and D2-leading 21st consecutive victory. Chaz Watler – who totaled 26 points ion 12-21 shooting – came through with not just one, but two buzzer-beating shots in this one, nailing a foul-line-extended jumper at the halftime horn to put STAC in front 49-48, then driving roughly 75 feet in the final 3.8 seconds and hitting the winning bank shot from the left side within the final second. That sensational individual effort followed a controversial charge call on Joey Wallace (14 points), wiping away the go-ahead basket inside the restricted area. Prior to that, the Spartans had used an 18-3 surge over a span of nearly eight minutes to transform a 65-63 deficit into an 81-68 lead. Two foul shots by Justin Reyes (25 points, 10-13 FG, 12 rebounds, four assists) punctuated the run with 5:50 remaining, and the divide was 85-75 inside the three-minute mark when the Owls answered with a 15-4 counter-run, edging in front 90-89 on a Michael Mallory foul shot with 18 seconds to go. James Mitcbell (four points, five assists) equalized with a freebie of his own with 16.8 seconds on the clock, leading to the disputed charge call and setting up Watler’s heroics. Unfortunately, it also triggered a volatile postgame incident that began on the handshake line and rapidly deteriorated into several simultaneous skirmishes throughout the gym that involved players, fans and administrators trying to restore order (suspensions and fines are likely pending). The melee – which lasted roughly 10 minutes – marred what had been a tremendous ballgame that featured seven ties, 10 lead changes and the two buzzer-beaters. Shaq McFarlan recorded 11 points and seven rebounds for Aquinas, which also received 10 points apiece from reserve guards Marcus Lawton and Aaron Cust (four assists). Michael Mallory was high man for Southern with 27 points and five assists, followed by Desmond Williams (16 points, eight rebounds, six assists in his swan song) and Austin Carter (10 points, 16 rebounds). Both teams were ineffective from beyond the arc (STAC 5-25, SCSU 6-24) in the racehorse ballgame with the Spartans scoring more often off turnovers (23-14) and the Owls winning the glass, 46-37.
ST. ANSELM 83 PHILADELPHIA 71
For the first time in four NCAA meetings, St. Anselm finally defeated Philadelphia thanks to superlative outings from Victor Joshua (24 points, four assists), Mike McCahey (20 points, 4-6 from 3, eight rebounds) and Harrison Taggart (19 points, seven boards). The Hawks never trailed on the day, bolting out to a 15-4 lead and extending it to 53-36 nearly nine minutes into the second half. The Rams – who received a career-high 34 points (16-28 FG), 10 rebounds and four assists from T.J. Huggins – never was able to make serious inroads in crunch time as the margin hovered between eight and 14 over the final 10:45. Sixteen straight St. A’s foul shots over the last 2:40 kept Philly U. at arm’s length, as the Hawks beat the Rams at their own game (23-27 FT to 6-8). They were also much more accurate from long distance (10-18 to 3-20), helping offset slight discrepancies in the shooting (44%-42%) and rebounding (40-37) departments, leading to Philadelphia's 14-4 second-chance scoring edge. Huggins outscored his teammates 24-23 in the second stanza, while Peter Alexis also called it a career with 17 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks.
STONEHILL 78 BENTLEY 62
Two old Massachusetts rivals whose campuses are separated by roughly 33 miles met in the City of Brotherly Love, with Stonehill beating Bentley going away in the 83rd all-time meeting between the programs. After the initial 20 minutes produced four ties, six lead changes and nothing larger than a five-point separation, 15 unanswered points by the Skyhawks shortly after intermission stretched a 41-38 lead to 56-38 following a basket by Josh Heyliger (11 points in 13 bench minutes on perfect 5-5 shooting) with 13:08 to play. The Falcons countered with a 19-4 tear, drawing within 60-57 after an Alex Furness trey with 5:32 left. That's as close as they would come, though, as Isaiah Bess (10 points) doubled the lead with a three of his own 21 seconds later, sparking a 9-0 spurt that widened the divide to 69-57 with 3:09 remaining. Bentley came no closer than nine thereafter as it was outshot on the night (52%-38%) and outworked at the foul line (11-13 to 2-5), neutralizing a 21-6 advantage in turnover points. Pierce Cumpstone paced five in twin figures for Stonehill with 19 points (7-11 FG) and eight rebounds. He was supported by Carter Smith (13 of his 15 points in the second half) and Ryan Logan (12 points, 2-2 from afar, seven assists) as the Skyhawks won their third in four meetings with the Falcons, in three different buildings, no less. Tyler McFarland provided the highlight of the game for Bentley, surpassing Bill Holden as the school’s all-time leading scorer as part of a 21-point, nine-rebound effort. Furness added 13 points and Keegan Hyland 11 with eight assists in the last game for the dynamic trio who combined for an impressive 4,565 career points.
Sunday’s regional semifinals include three Northeast-10 teams and one East Coast Conference club. The first pairing features St. Anselm and St. Thomas Aquinas, while Stonehill squares off against Southern New Hampshire in the nightcap.