NEWPORT, R.I. - The 2011 Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC) men's basketball champion Salve Regina University had to win three road games for its title last season. With an 85-72 win over Nichols College in the final regular season home game for the Seahawks tonight, Salve Regina earned the top seed in the upcoming championships and will entertain all challengers at the Rodgers Recreation Center next week.
Sophomore guard Isiah Pringle (Queens, N.Y.) led a balanced offensive attack, five Seahawks in double-figure scoring, with 18 points including four 3-pointers. The Seahawks built an eight-point lead at halftime with Pringle and William Smiley (Saunderstown, R.I.) reaching double-digits by the break, 11 and 13 points, respectively. Smiley made 6-of-10 field goals in the first and made his only attempt in the second to finish with 17 points (includes four free throws).
Nichols (11-13; 9-8 CCC) scored the first six points of tonight's contest with two baskets from Ryan Sheehan (North Attleboro, Mass.) and a fastbreak layup for Matt Langadas (Casco, Maine). Smiley got the first basket for Salve Regina (16-8; 14-3 CCC) at the 17:20 mark. The Seahawks had their first lead at 14:30 (11-10) when Joshua Hohlfelder (Noank, Conn.) converted a steal by Scott St. Lawrence (Litchfield, N.H.) into a layup and a free throw.
After Sheehan hit a pair of free throws to put the Bison up three (19-16) at the 11:20 mark, Smiley hit a jumper to start a 13-6 Seahawk run. Pringle hit his first two baskets of the game during the run, both 3-pointers. Graduate student Ryan Birrell (Scituate, R.I.) converted a steal by Jeff Bielefeld (Littleton, Mass.) into a layup and free throw for a two-point Salve Regina lead.
Pringle's third 3-pointer followed his own fastbreak layup and gave Salve Regina its largest first-half lead (39-29 at 4:18).
Senior Michael Salis (Nashua, N.H.) opened the scoring in the second half with a layup. After Birrell and Langadas exchanged layups, that would be the closest the Bison would get the rest of the game, within six (50-44) at 18:11.
A pair of free throws from Hohlfelder started an 8-0 run for Salve Regina which got three straight baskets from freshman guard Brendan Canova (Edina, Minn.). Birrell grabbed a defensive rebound at 2:44 and finished with a layup and a free throw at 2:21 for the largest lead of the game, SRU 85-69.
The only scoring after that was a 3-pointer from Sam Horning (Falmouth, Maine).
Sheehan led all players with 21 points while Langadis and Salis had 11 and 10, respectively. In addition to Pringle and Smiley, Salve Regina's other double-digit scorers were Birrell (15), Canova (12), and Bielefeld (10). Bielefeld registered his third double-double of the season with 13 rebounds.
Nichols closes out its regular season at home against Gordon College. The Bison are in a three-way tie for fourth while the Scots are just one game behind that group. Salve Regina finishes at Roger Williams University on Saturday (3 p.m.) in Bristol, R.I., where the Hawks hope to clinch the fourth seed.