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Birrell leads Salve Regina past St. Joseph's, 60-56

Ryan Birrell had a team-high 17 points and eight rebounds in Salve Regina's first win of 2011-12.
Ryan Birrell had a team-high 17 points and eight rebounds in Salve Regina's first win of 2011-12.

NEW LONDON, Conn. – The Salve Regina University men's basketball team held off St. Joseph's College (Brooklyn) down the stretch to earn its first win of the season, 60-56, at the Mitchell College Tipoff Tourney Showcase on Saturday afternoon at the Yarnall Athletic Center.

Ryan Birrell (Hope, R.I./Scituate) led all scorers with 17 points to pace the Seahawks (1-1 overall) and filled the stat line with eight rebounds, five assists, five steals and a block. Justin Gist (Brooklyn, N.Y./Newsome) netted 14 points to lead St. Joseph's (1-2 overall) and was 4-for-6 from three-point range.

Birrell got Salve Regina off to a quick start, scoring seven of the team's first nine points while recording an assist on the other two. The Seahawks led 9-5 after the first five minutes of play, but the Bears pulled ahead behind a 13-2 run over a 3:22 stretch that gave them their biggest lead at 18-11 with 10:22 to play in the half.

Salve Regina took the lead back for good on a three-pointer by Joshua Fuhrmeister (Bonn, Germany/St. George's) that made it 30-28 with 2:11 to play in the stanza. The sophomore big man buried another trey the next time down the floor and later tacked on a pair of free throws to pump the margin to seven at 35-28. St. Joseph's cut the deficit to five on a layup by Ismael Dabo (Long Island City, N.Y./St. John's Prep) in the final minute to trail 35-30 at the break.

Birrell scored 11 of his 17 points in the first half as Salve Regina shot 39 percent and held a 27-18 edge on the glass. Gist, Dabo and David Louison (Brooklyn, N.Y./St. Edmund Prep) each had six points at intermission to lead St. Joseph's, which shot 36 percent from the floor.

St. Joseph's trailed the entire second half but kept it close throughout. Down 54-47 with 6:58 remaining, the Bears scored six straight points and closed the gap to one on a three-pointer by Gist with 3:57 to go.

Salve Regina had gone 4:30 without a point before Birrell came through with a tough drive to the hoop for a contested lay-in, extending the lead to 56-53 with 2:26 left on the clock. The Seahawks later dodged a bullet when the Bears got a clean look for a game-tying three-pointer from the corner, but the shot drew iron and the rebound was corralled by Joshua Hohlfelder (Noank, Conn./Fitch).

Patrick Dinneen (Medfield, Mass./Xaverian Brothers) and Birrell each nailed a pair of free throws in the final 23 seconds to close out the win. Hohlfelder finished with nine points while Fuhrmeister and Brendan Canova (Edina, Minn./Edina) added eight apiece.

Dabo, Louison and David Ortiz (Brooklyn, N.Y./Christ the King) each scored eight points for the Bears. Louison, who averaged 8.5 points and 9.0 rebounds for the tournament, was named to the All-Tourney Team.

The Tipoff Tourney Showcase will wrap up on Sunday when Mitchell hosts Salve Regina at 2 p.m. St. Joseph's returns to action on Monday, November 21 at home against Vermont Technical College at 7:30 p.m.