PROVIDENCE, R.I. - Senior guard Tahrike Carter
(Brooklyn, N.Y.) scored 13 points and was named the Most
Outstanding Player as top-seeded Rhode Island College defeated
third-seeded Keene State, 60-53, in the Championship Game to claim
the 2013 Little East Conference Tournament title.
The Anchormen (25-3) will advance to the NCAA Div. III Men's Basketball Tournament for the seventh consecutive season and win the league's tournament for the fifth time (2013, '11, '10, '08, '07). Rhode Island College, which went 3-0 in the league tourney, had clinched the Little East Regular Season Championship for the sixth time (2013, '11, '10, '09, '07, '05) with a 13-1 league mark this winter.
RIC defeated eighth-seeded UMass Dartmouth, 62-58, in the first round on Feb. 19 and fourth-seeded Southern Maine, 61-47, in the semifinals on Feb. 22 prior to this afternoon's victory.
The win over the Owls (17-11) marked the fifth time in the last seven years the Anchormen have put an end to Keene's tournament run. Rhode Island College also defeated KSC in the championship game in 2007, while winning in the semifinals 2011, '09 and '08.
Carter added six rebounds, three assists, a block and a steal. In the three games of the tournament, he averaged 12. 3 points, 6.7 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.0 steals per contest. He also shot 50 percent (14-for-28) from the field.
In today's win, junior guard Nyheem Sanders (Pawtucket, R.I.) pitched in with 13 points and four rebounds. Sophomore forward Chris Burton (New Rochelle, N.Y.) had 12 points and a game-high eight steals.
Turnovers killed the Owls on Saturday, as the visitors coughed it up 28 times, compared to just 15 turnovers for RIC. Rhode Island College finished with 29 points off those turnovers in the win.
Keene State opened up a 9-4 lead at 16:17 of the first half with senior guard Ryan Martin (Wayne, ME) accounting for seven of the Owls' points. RIC went on a 6-2 run to pull within a point, 11-10, at 15:03 as Burton made a steal and a layup.
Keene responded by rolling off six straight and built a seven point, 19-12, advantage on senior forward Rashad Wright's (Agawam, Mass.) jump shot at 10:23. The Anchormen's defense came to the forefront as RIC forced three turnovers and erupted for a 10-0 run to lead, 22-19, with 7:39 left in the stanza. Senior guard Ethan Gaye (Providence, R.I.) picked up four of the squad's points during the run.
KSC once again rallied to earn a 24-22 lead, paced by four free throws from senior forward Eric Fazio (Hopewell Junction, NY). The Anchormen went up by five points, 31-26, with just over two minutes remaining, but the visitors trimmed their deficit by three points twice. Fazio canned two free throws to make it, 33-30, at 1:20, but Carter sank a clutch three in the final seconds of the stanza to send the hosts into halftime up by six, 36-30.
After the Owls opened up the second half with back-to-back buckets to cut the deficit to two, Rhode Island College responded with a 9-1 run to extend its lead to 10, capped off by a three-pointer from Carter with 12:18 to play. However, the Owls slowly began to chip away at the margin and eventually cut the deficit to five with 6:12 remaining following four straight free throws from Martin that made it, 48-43.
Yet, the Anchormen answered right back, as moments later, Sanders buried a trey to give RIC a 51-43 lead with 4:35 on the clock. After the two teams traded baskets over the next few minutes, Martin trimmed Keene's deficit to just five with a fade-away jump shot, despite incredible defense from Gaye, with just 51 seconds left to play.
Following a missed free throw on the Rhode Island College end of the floor, Martin raced up the court and buried another tough jump shot with just 35 seconds to play to make it, 56-53.
After Sanders drained free throws to extend RIC's lead to five, Martin again raced down to the floor in an attempt to make it a one-possession game with less than 30 seconds to play. However, Martin's jumper was rejected by freshman forward Ryan Lawton (West Warwick, R.I.) with just 21 seconds remaining, and Carter pounced on the loose ball to seal the victory for the Anchormen.
Martin led the Owls with a game-high 17 points, while Fazio
added 10 points and six rebounds off the bench. Wright tallied six
points, nine rebounds, three steals, two blocks and two assists,
while senior guard Anthony Mariano (Naugatuck, Conn.) chipped in
with eight points and four rebounds. Junior center Montel Walcott
(New Haven, Conn.) and sophomore guard Tom Doyle (Wallingford,
Conn.) each finished with four points and seven rebounds.
In total, Keene State outrebounded Rhode Island College, 44-27, and corralled 13 offensive rebounds as a team. However, the Anchormen managed to outscore the Owls in the paint, 30-14.
The Anchormen shot 40 percent (20-for-50) from the floor, 27 percent (4-for-15) from downtown and 59 percent (16-for-27) from the free throw line. The Owls shot 31 percent (14-for-45) from the field, eight percent (1-for-13) from beyond the arc and 89 percent (24-for-27) from the free throw line.