Smiley shoots Seahawks to CCC finals
NEWPORT, R.I. – Junior William Smiley (Saunderstown, R.I.) led all players with 23 points on an efficient 10-of-11 shooting from the floor to help the Salve Regina University men's basketball team advance past Nichols College by the score of 81-80 during the semifinal round of the Commonwealth Coast Conference Championship tournament on Thursday night at the Rodgers Recreation Center. The Seahawks improve to 19-8 on the season and will host Endicott in the CCC Championship this Saturday.
Smiley added seven rebounds and three blocks to his game-high 23 points, while senior Ryan Birrell (Hope, R.I.) compiled 17 points, 10 rebounds, six assists, and two blocks in the win. Sophomore Isiah Pringle (Queens, N.Y.) added 17 points and a game-high four steals, while sophomore Jeff Bielefeld (Littleton, Mass.) ripped-down 19 boards on the night.
The Bison were led by freshman Matt Langadas (Casco, Maine) who had a team-high 18 points and eight rebounds in the loss. Sophomore Ryan Sheehan (North Attleboro, Mass.) added 16 points while reaching the 1,000 career points milestone for the visitors, while freshman Marlon Bennett (Stratford, Conn.) chipped-in with 14 points on 6-of-12 shooting off the bench.
The Seahawks jumped out to an early 5-0 lead on a free throw and a pair of jumpers from Pringle.
With the Seahawks holding a six-point advantage at 15-11, the Bison received a layup from Marlon Bennett that led to a technical foul on Salve Regina. Sheehan hit one of the two technical free throws to bring Nichols back within three, 15-12.
The Seahawks responded by erupting for 13 unanswered points. Smiley got the run started with five consecutive points, while Pringle added a pair of jumpers, helping Salve Regina take a 28-12 lead with just 4:30 left to play in the opening half.
After a Nichols' timeout, the Bison battled back with eight unanswered points of their own, including a pair of layups by Joe Gallant (Salem, N.H.) to climb back within eight.
Smiley, who was a perfect 7-of-7 from the floor in the first period, finally answered for the Seahawks. The sophomore guard hit a jumper with 49 seconds on the clock before closing the half by draining a fade away shot at the buzzer, sending Salve Regina into the break holding a 32-20 advantage.
The Bison started the second period by chipping the Salve Regina lead down to seven through the first five minutes of play.
However, the Seahawks struck back with layups from Smiley and Patrick Dinneen (Medfield, Mass.), as well as a 3-pointer by Birrell to double their lead, 45-31.
The Salve Regina advantage swelled to as many as 15 with just under 12 minutes to play, but the Bison refused to go away. Nichols scored 20 points over the next 5:30 minutes, outscoring the Seahawks 20-5 to tie the score at 56-56. Langadas had eight points during the run, which was capped by a game-tying trey from Craig Merrick (Ledyard, Conn.) with 6:32 left to play.
Undeterred, the Seahawks countered with a 7-0 run of their own, capped by five straight points by Dinneen to put Salve Regina in front 63-56 with under five minutes remaining in the period.
The Seahawks expanded their lead to eight with just 40 seconds left on the clock, but the Bison still weren't finished. Langadas sunk a layup, and after Birrell hit one-of-two at the line for Salve Regina, junior Justin Kuntz (Wallingford, Conn.) drilled a three to cut the SRU lead down to four, 78-74, with 25 ticks left on the clock.
Sophomore Scott St. Lawrence (Litchfield, N.H.) converted a layup at the other end for the Seahawks, but Bennett answered with yet another three-pointer for the Bison to make it a three-point game with just nine seconds remaining.
Pringle hit what turned out to be the game-winning free throw while going one-for-two from line, putting the Seahawks up four before Kuntz drilled a three at the buzzer to cut the final score to 81-80 in favor of Salve Regina.
The Seahawks will host Endicott in the Commonwealth Coast Conference Championship this Saturday (6 p.m.) at the Rodgers Recreation Center.