Seahawks snare another opportunity at championship
WORCESTER, Mass. - Ryan Birrell (Scituate, R.I.) exploded for 18 second-half points and recorded a near triple-double to power Salve Regina to the ECAC New England Championship Finals at the Harrington Auditorium, defeating Elms, 70-59, on Saturday. Salve Regina ups its record to 21-9 while Elms wraps up its season with an 18-11 mark.
After a scoreless opening three minutes, Elms hammered out a 10-2 lead that included three second-chance baskets and a driving layup from David McDaniel (Plainfield, N.J.) to put his team up eight. Offensive rebounding was key for Elms in the first half, as they pulled down ten boards off the offensive glass, including four from Bryant Corcoran (Waterbury, Conn.). Salve Regina would attempt to answer, chipping away at the lead for most of the opening period and led by William Smiley (Saunderstown, R.I.) who finished the half with six points and five rebounds. A jumper from Joshua Hohlfelder (Noank, Conn.) cut the lead to one at 24-23 with 3:29 remaining in the period. Two minutes later, Isiah Pringle (Queens, N.Y.) hit a 3-pointer, tying the game at 28-28. Elms would close out the half scoring five straight points, including a layup courtesy of Piere Simpson (East Hartford, Conn.). Elms went into halftime up 33-28.
Both teams came out aggressive in the second half, with Salve Regina tying the game repeatedly but Elms responding each time. Down 41-37 at one point, the Seahawks doubled the Blazers scoring output over an 11 minute stretch, storming back to finally take the lead when Birrell hit a 3-pointer to put Salve Regina ahead 47-45 with 14:16 left in the game. The Seahawks never trailed after that, taking a eleven-point advantage on a Birrell free-throw with 49 seconds left.
Birrell was the story in crunch time for Salve Regina, as 18 of his 20 points came in the second period. The graduate student also hauled in game-highs of 11 rebounds and nine assists to go along with two steals. Pringle finished with 16 points, shooting 4-of-8 from downtown. Smiley contributed nine points and nine rebounds, while Hohlfelder added ten points.
McDaniel led Elms with 16 points, ten rebounds and two blocks. Simpson scored nine of his 12 points in the first half while pulling down four boards. Corcoran finished with eight points and ten rebounds.
In the second semifinal of the afternoon, host WPI will play Bridgewater State. The winner of that contest will face Salve Regina on Sunday, March 4 at 12 p.m. for the ECAC New England Championship.