QUINCY, Mass.- The second-seeded Eastern Nazarene College men's basketball team endured a heart-breaking 74-73 loss to sixth-seeded Newbury in the New England Collegiate Conference (NECC) Tournament semifinals Thursday evening at the Lahue Physical Education Center.
The Lions finish the season with a 14-12 overall record with the result. The Nighthawks improve to 12-14 on the year and advance to the NECC Championship game February 21.
Noah Cheney (Bend, Ore.) poured in a team-high 17 points and added five rebounds. Josh Rice (Hanson, Mass.) finished with 13 points off the bench. Garrett Crandell (Bristol, Tenn.) posted 11 points and seven boards while Patrick Michel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) chipped in with 11 points off the bench.
After a back-and-forth start to the game, the home side grabbed a six-point lead with 12:22 left to play in the opening frame, 15-6, on a layup by Andrew Mitchell (Campobello, S.C.).
The visitors clawed back to level the contest at 15-15 on a layup by Pierce Weatherspoon with 9:50 to go in the first half.
Eastern Nazarene responded with a 9-0 run to claim a 24-15 advantage with 7:04 remaining in the half.
Newbury knotted the score with 2:50 left to play in the opening period, 32-32, as Omar Williams knocked down a jumper.
Layups by Tank Roberson and Weatherspoon in the final two minutes of the first frame gave the Nighthawks a 36-34 edge at the midway point of the game.
Eastern Nazarene shot 38.7% from the floor and 22.2% from beyond the arc in the first half. Newbury sported a field-goal percentage of 38.9% at the intermission to go with 3-for-10 shooting from three-point distance.
The guests pushed their lead to 42-37 early in the second stanza on a trey by Weatherspoon.
A three-ball and mid-range jumper by Cheney pulled the Lions even at 42-42 with less than 17 minutes remaining in regulation.
The home team built up a double-digit advantage with 7:06 to go as Cheney canned the second of two free throw attempts, 63-53.
Newbury narrowed the gap to 69-66 on a layup by Weatherspoon with 3:08 remaining.
Eastern Nazarene stretched the margin to seven with 2:08 on the clock on a pair of free throws by Cheney, 73-66.
The Nighthawks chalked up the final eight points to escape with the narrow victory. A layup by Williams with 35 seconds left cut the deficit to 73-72 before a steal-and-score by Williams vaulted Newbury ahead by one.
Eastern Nazarene concluded the contest with a field-goal percentage of 35.7% while draining 9-of-24 from long range. Newbury shot 40% from the floor and 38.9% from behind the arc on the night.
Weatherspoon paced the Nighthawks with a game-high 25 points while Williams netted 23 points.