Battle of Wills as Stonehill Looks to Quiet #3 West Liberty
Junior Brian Hamor led the Skyhawks to their second regional title in program history with his MVP performance in the East Regional. (PHOTO BY Bert Lane)
NCAA East Region and NE-10 Tournament champion Skyhawks face toughest defensive task of season in Wednesday's national quarterfinal
HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. (March 20, 2012) – East Region and Northeast-10 Conference Champions Stonehill College, among teams receiving votes in the final regular season NABC Division II poll, faces its toughest defensive task of the season when it squares off with No. 3-ranked West Liberty University, the Atlantic Region champions, for a national quarterfinal round matchup at the NCAA Division II men's basketball Elite Eight, hosted by Northern Kentucky University, at the Bank of Kentucky Center on Wednesday at noon.
Admission is $12.00 for adults and $10.00 for students, children and senior citizens. The game will be webcast live and free of charge via www.ncaa.com, with links also available via www.stonehillskyhawks.com. Stonehill will also be offering an interactive live in-game blog, through Cover-it-Now, via the official website of Skyhawks athletics, with updates also posted on the Skyhawks' Facebook and Twitter accounts.
To say Wednesday's quarterfinal matchup will be a clash in styles would be an understatement. Stonehill (24-8, 15-7 NE-10) boasts the top remaining defense in Division II, while West Liberty (32-2, 21-1 WVIAC) is the top offensive team in the country, averaging nearly 103 points per game. The Skyhawks are making their second trip to the Elite Eight in program history after defeating defending East Region champions Bloomfield College in last week's regional championship in Worcester, Mass., 75-70. Junior guard Brian Hamor (Schenectady, N.Y./Bishop Gibbons) earned Most Outstanding Player honors at the regional as he averaged 22.3 points on 50-percent (9-for-18) shooting from three-point range, and scored 16 of his team-high 20 points against Bloomfield in the second half to seal the win and the Skyhawks first Elite Eight trip since 2006.
West Liberty reached its second-straight Elite Eight after posting an 89-78 victory over No. 7 Shaw (N.C.) University in last week's Atlantic Region final. The Hilltoppers got a season-high 26 points from regional MVP Cedric Harris (Zanesville, Ohio/Zanesville) in the regional final. West Liberty, which is averaging a Division II best 102.8 points per game, has led the country in scoring six of the last seven seasons.
West Liberty has scored 100 or more points in 19 games this season and its season low point total came in a 79-72 victory over Alderson-Broaddus College on November 22. Stonehill has allowed 79 or more points just once this season in an 82-79 setback to Franklin Pierce University on January 13. The Skyhawks last allowed 100 or more points in a 114-113 triple overtime setback to Columbus State University at the 2007 Disney Tip Off Classic. That game also marks the last time Stonehill scored over 100 points.
Senior Patrick Lee ranks second in the NE-10 for rebounding this season and has been named to the All-Tournament teams at the NE-10 and East Regional championships. (PHOTO BY Richard Orr)
Stonehill enters the Elite Eight winners of a season-high nine straight games, highlighted by its 6-0 postseason clip on its way to an NE-10 and East Region championship double. The Skyhawks rank fourth in the country in scoring defense (58.7 ppg), 11th for field goal percentage defense (.396) and 33rd for three-point field goal percentage defense (.313). Stonehill leads the NE-10 with 4.6 blocked shots per game (20th nationally) and also ranks third in the Conference for three-point shooting (.377).
Stonehill gets production from a variety of players night in and night out, with Hamor leading the way after his East Regional performance with 14.3 points (14th NE-10), 3.1 rebounds and 3.3 assists (11th) per game this season. He is shooting 40.7-percent from the field, including 36.6% (53-for-145) from three-point range, while converting a team-best 74.4% (119-160) from the free-throw line. Hamor, a second team All-Northeast-10 selection, is averaging 15.5 points, 2.5 rebounds and 4.0 assists, converting 88.6% (31-35) of his free-throws and drilling 45.5% (10-220 of his three-pointers.
Senior Andre Tongo (Acton, Mass./Acton-Boxborough), who earned Most Outstanding Player honors at the NE-10 Tournament, averages 12.7 points, 4.8 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.3 steals per game, while shooting 39.6% from the field, including 38.5% (69-179) from three-point range, while converting 71.6% (58-81) of his free-throw attempts this season. In the postseason, he is averaging 14.5 points, five rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.3 steals, shooting 42.4% from the field, including 40.6% from three-point range, and converting 78.3% of his free-throws.
Senior Patrick Lee (Fayetteville, N.Y./Fayetteville-Manlius), the NE-10 Defensive Player of the Year and a third-team All-NE-10 selection, has quietly been having a solid postseason and been recognized with spots on the All-Tournament teams for both the NE-10 championships and East Regional championship. He averages 10.7 points and a team-high 8.7 rebounds (2nd), 1.2 steals and nearly a blocked shot per game, while shooting 49.3% from the field. Junior Adam Fazzini (Drums, Pa./Crestwood) leads a Stonehill bench unit that is outscoring the opponents by 6.6 points per game (20.4-13.8) for the year, including a +12.8 (22.7-9.8) in six postseason games. He is averaging 9.1 points on a Conference-best 46.6% (69-148) from beyond the arc, while adding 3.4 rebounds per game. Fazzini is contributing 10.3 points on 48.5% (16-33) shooting from deep, while converting 10-of-11 (90.9%) free-throws, during the postseason.
West Liberty leads Division II in five statistical categories entering the Elite Eight, including a Division II-best 102.8 points per game. The Hilltoppers are also leading the country in assists per game (21.1), scoring margin (+21.1) and free-throw percentage (80.2%), while ranking second for steals per game (11.3) and turnover margin (+5.6). WLU also ranks among national leaders with a .507 field goal percentage (8th), .412 three-point percentage (7th) and 4.7 blocked shots per game (15th).
Senior Andre Tongo was MVP of the NE-10 Tournament and is also one of the Skyhawks top defenders. (PHOTO BY Richard Orr)
West Liberty features six players averaging double figures in scoring, led by junior All-American Alex Falk (Upper Sandusky, Ohio/Upper Sandusky) with 17.7 points on 54.9-percent shooting from the field, including 42.3% (41-97) from three-point range, while converting 82.4% (136-165) of his free-throw attempts to go with 5.1 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 2.4 steals per game this season. Harris adds 16.1 points on 48.2% shooting from the field and an 86.7% (91-105) effort at the line to go with 3.9 rebounds, a team-high 5.5 assists and 2.0 steals per game. Harris and Falk have combined to dish out 296 assists this season, while turning the ball over just 157 combined.
Freshman C.J. Hester (West Mifflin, Pa./West Mifflin) is contributing to the balanced West Liberty attack with 14.6 points, on 61.4% shooting from the field, with a team-best 8.5 rebounds per contest, while junior Chris Morrow (Van Wert, Ohio/Van Wert) is averaging 13.1 points on 50.2% shooting, including 41.4% (46-111) from beyond the arc, while converting 79.2% (76-96) of his free-throws with 5.8 rebounds, 2.0 assists and a team-high 2.1 blocked shots per outing. Rounding out the Hilltoppers double-figure scorers are junior Tim Hausfeld (Toledo, Ohio/Sylvania Southview) with 12.3 points, shooting 46.7% (93-199) from deep and 93.1% (54-58) from the line, with 2.7 assists and 1.8 steals per game, while freshman Shawn Dyer (Marion, Ohio/Harding) chips in 11.4 points in 22.3 minutes per game off the bench.
Wednesday will mark the first ever meeting between these two programs. The Skyhawks will be looking to advance to the national semifinals for the second time in program history after reaching that round in 2006 after a 69-59 win over Tarleton State University in the national quarterfinals that season before falling to eventual national champion Winona State University, 83-73. Assistant coach Chris Kraus was a senior on that year's squad, scoring 17 points in both Elite Eight games, while fellow assistant coach Mike Quinn made two Elite Eight trips during his playing days with NE-10 rival Bentley University.
West Liberty defeated Anderson (S.C.) University in last year's national quarterfinal in Springfield, Mass., 113-95, before falling to BYU-Hawaii in the semifinals, 110-101. The Hilltoppers are 2-4 all-time against members of the Northeast-10 Conference.
Stonehill is participating in the NCAA Tournament for the 12th time, with its current run of four-straight the longest in program history. Head coach David McLaughlin, who became the winningest coach in program history earlier this season and has posted a 177-83 (.681) record over his nine seasons, has guided he Skyhawks to five NCAA Tournament bids.
The winner of Wednesday's game will advance to Thursday's national semifinal round where it will face the winner of tomorrow's second quarterfinal contest with between 12th-ranked Western Washington University (29-5) and No. 5 Midwestern State University (29-3) at 7 p.m., in a contest that will be broadcast live on CBS College Sports. The national championship game will be broadcast live on CBS on Saturday at 1 p.m.
2012 NCAA Division II Elite Eight
hosted by Northern Kentucky University
Bank of Kentucky Center, Highland Heights, Ky.
Wednesday, March 21 (Quarterfinals)
#3 West Liberty (32-2) vs. Stonehill (24-8), Noon
#12 Western Washington (29-5) vs. #5 Midwestern State (29-3), 2:30 p.m.
#5 Bellarmine (28-3) vs. #2 Alabama-Huntsville (29-3), 6 p.m.
#13 Metro State (25-6) vs. #22 Montevallo (27-7), 8:30 p.m.
Thursday, March 22 (Semifinals)
televised by CBS College Sports
West Liberty/Stonehill winner vs. Western Washington/Midwestern winner, 7 p.m.
Bellarmine/Ala.-Huntsville winner vs. Metro State/Montevallo winner, 9:30 p.m.
Saturday, March 24 (Championship)
televised by CBS
Semifinal winners, 1 p.m.