The Knights entered this year's YSCC Elite 8 Championship Tournament as the 4th seed. They knew heading in to the tournament that, in order to return to the USCAA National Tournament, they had to win the Yankee Small College Conference Championship Tournament. Tall order.
First up on Friday at 5PM was VTC nemesis Central Maine. The Mustangs defeated the Knights in both meetings this season. The first game occurred in early December at CM's Kirk Hall. "I'll never forget that game," said Coach Dyer. Our shooters were as cold as the temperature in Kirk Hall. Kevin (Carr) and Al (Tyrrell) were something like 0-22 from 3 point range. It was as if the basket was a moving target." CM won that contest, 77-59.
The teams squared off again in mid-January. Again, CM beat the Knights 74-63. "We were really disappointed by that loss. We had just come off a solid win against Southern Maine and I thought our guys were beginning to hit a stride. CM out hustled us, out shot us, and out rebounded us. Their shooter were just "lights out."
CM features USCAA All American Tyler Smithgall in the post. Smithgall is surrounded by a trio of shooters and a tall, athletic point guard. "Clearly, CM was a tough match up for us," said Coach Dyer. "We weren't exactly overjoyed to have to play them in the first round."
All of the YSCC first round games were barn burners, none more so than the VTC/CM match-up. CM jumped out to an early first half lead. The Knights fought back to take the lead. CM came back and opened an eight point lead. Again, the Knights fought back and tied the score. At halftime CM lead by five.
"I've always believed that the first three minutes of the second half are pivotal. We wanted to come out strong," said Coach Dyer. That didn't happen. Instead, CM gradually built up a 13 point lead with ten minutes remaining.
"I think this was a case of our guys just refusing to lose. They really wanted to win this one for Kevin." The Knights battled back, one possession at a time, led by Kevin Carr's shooting and intense defensive play by Jhason Clark and Eko N'Bouke. At the five minute mark, the score was tied. With just under three minutes remaining, the Knights took the lead and never relinquished it. The final score was 70-67.
Kevin Carr led all scorers with 28 points. Jhason Clark added 13 points and freshman sensation Lucas Dutil chipped in for 11 points.