Auburn, ME -Taking on a difficult opponent on their home court, the Vermont Tech Knights were able to best host Central Maine Community College in the Elite Eight of the Yankee Small College Conference Tournament by the final of 77-63.
The Mustangs are always a tough team to defeat on their home floor in Auburn, Maine, and being at home gave them a distinct advantage over the visiting Knights. Although the Knights were technically the home team, wearing their white jerseys, the Mustangs kept their regular home bench and had a distinct home crowd and home game feel. This served them well in the first half, as they hung in against the favored Knights.
Both teams utilized the 3-point line to put up points, with CM eventually hitting on 10/29 and VTC on 14/31. Even with both teams hitting around 30% from 3, scoring was at a premium in the first half, and going into the break VTC held a slim 4 point lead, 33-29.
The second half saw the Knights begin to slowly extend their lead and assery their dominance on the Mustangs. Brandon Matano (Jr./Honolulu, HI) continued his stellar play off the bench, leading all scorers with 22 on 8/15 shooting from the field and 4/8 from beyond the 3-point arc. Alex Tyrrell (Sr./Sydnsey, Australia) was determined for this not to be his last contest, and willed the team through scoring droughts by playing tough defense, grabbing 8 rebounds and scoring 19 points on 6/12 shooting, including 3/4 for 3. He and Matano were also perfect from the line, going 6/6. The Knights as a whole went an impressive 11/14 from the free throw stripe, 78.6%.
Although the Knights held the lead the entirety of the half, never relinquishing for even a moment, the Mustangs would not go away. Samson Oleyami kept his team in the contest scoring 18 points and grabbing 5 rebounds. Justin Cocroft was perfect from the field, going 3/3 with all being 3 pointers. He added a free throw to make his total 10. Darreel Wilson led the Mustangs in rebounding with 6.
Perhaps the most telling stat of the Knight came in the form of assists. Vermont Tech assisted on 19 of their 26 baskets, with Freshman Sam Marler (Sydney, Australia) dishing out 10. That shows a consummate team attitude and discipline, as Central Maine could only manage 7 assits on theri 24 baskets.
In the end, the Knights came out on top by 14, outscoring their opponents 44-34 in the second half to make the final 77-63.
In the Semi-finals the Knights will take on the Golden Eagles of Eastern Maine CC, who defeated Paul Smith's College in the late game of the night. Tip is set for Sunday, February 17th at 6pm. NHTI takes on Southern Maine CC in the other men's semi-final, which will immediately precede the Knights' contest.