NEW LONDON, Conn.- The third-seeded Eastern Nazarene College men's basketball team was eliminated from the New England Collegiate Conference (NECC) Tournament with a 73-69 setback at No. 2 seed Mitchell Thursday evening in the semifinal round.
The Lions finish the campaign with a 14-13 overall record with the result. The Mariners improve to 12-14 on the year and advance to the NECC Championship to defend their title as they will face top-seeded New England College February 29.
Garrett Crandell (Bristol, Tenn.) scored a game-high 19 points and added eight rebounds. Noah Cheney (Bend, Ore.) netted 12 points and grabbed six rebounds on the night. David Lopez (Miami, Fla.) tallied 10 points and collected six boards off the bench. Ozzy Traill III (Valley Stream, N.Y.) finished with a career-best nine points. Josh Rice (Hanson, Mass.) and Jacob Waldroop (Newland, N.C.) both chipped in with seven points.
Rice concludes his collegiate career ranked 17th on the program's all-time scoring list with 1,279 career points while Cheney finishes his career ranked 25th with 1,035 career points.
The home team chalked up the first five points of the game to seize a 5-0 edge early on before the visitors leveled the contest at 7-7 with 15:16 remaining in the first half on a bucket by Crandell.
Mitchell claimed a seven-point lead, 17-10, with 10:45 to go in the opening frame as Connel Henderson knocked down a jumper.
Eastern Nazarene clawed back to snag a 24-23 advantage on a basket by Cheney with 5:15 left to play in the half.
After the Mariners regained a three-point lead with 1:33 on the clock, Lopez converted two free throws to trim the margin to 32-31.
The hosts boasted a 34-31 edge at the midway point of the game after a bucket by Malik Chase beat the halftime horn.
The Lions shot 40% from the floor and 28.6% from long range in the opening half. Mitchell posted a field-goal percentage of 45.2% in the first frame while connecting on 2-of-9 from three-point territory.
The guests knotted the score at 35-35 with 16:45 left to play on a baseline-jumper by Traill.
Matt Finke nailed a pair of treys to lift Mitchell ahead 41-37 with 15:44 to go in regulation.
Eastern Nazarene tied up the contest at 42-42 as Rice canned a three-pointer from the left wing with 14:43 on the clock.
The Mariners responded with a trey by Chase to reclaim a three-point edge with 14:07 remaining, 45-42.
The Lions captured their first lead of the second stanza as Traill buried a corner three with 11:43 left to play, 47-45.
The two teams traded treys before Eastern Nazarene stretched the gap to 57-50, the largest lead of the night, on a three-pointer by Waldroop followed by a four-point play by Rice with a triple and a free throw.
Mitchell reclaimed the lead with 3:01 remaining in regulation, 65-61, on back-to-back treys by Leonard Williams.
The visitors cut the deficit to one point as Crandell banked in a layup and earned a trip to the charity stripe with 48 seconds on the clock, 70-69.
A layup by Chase and a free throw by Finke in the waning seconds sealed the win as the Mariners punched their ticket to the NECC Championship for the second year in a row.
Eastern Nazarene finished with a field-goal percentage of 46.9% while draining 8-of-16 from the perimeter. Mitchell shot 44.3% from the floor and 44% from beyond the arc.
Finke paced the home team with 18 points while Chase scored 17 points and hauled in six rebounds.