Stonehill Set to Battle #12 Western Washington for Championship Bid
Stonehill College, among teams receiving votes in the final regular season NABC Division II poll, battles 12th-ranked Western Washington University for the rights to play for a national championship on day two of the 2012 NCAA Division II Elite Eight, hosted by Northern Kentucky University, at The Bank of Kentucky Center tonight. The Skyhawks, champions of the Northeast-10 Tournament and NCAA East Regional, advanced with a thrilling 91-90 upset of No. 3-ranked West Liberty University in Wednesday's Elite Eight opener. The Vikings, the regular season champions of the Great Northwest Athletic Conference and NCAA West Region champions, posted a 64-63 win over No. 5-ranked Midwestern State University in yesterday's second quarterfinal.
Tonight's game is televised live in HD on CBS College Sports with Tim Brando (PBP) and Dan Bonner (analyst) calling the action. Free live webcast is also available through ncaa.com with links also available via www.stonehillskyhawks.com. CBS will have coverage of Saturday's national championship to a nationwide audience.
Against the Vikings
Tonight marks the first ever meeting between these two programs. Former Western Washington football player Pat McCann, '09 is currently serving as special teams coordinator and wide receivers coach at Stonehill.
Happy to be Back
Stonehill has advanced to the Final Four for the second time in as many visits to the NCAA Division II Elite Eight in program history. The Skyhawks made their first trip under David McLaughlin in 2006, advancing to the national semifinal round with a 69-59 win over Tarleton State before being edged by eventual champions Winona State, 83-73.
Stonehill senior Sean Lowry (Butler, Pa.) received the NCAA Elite ™ Award at Monday's pre-tournament banquet held at the Drees Pavilion. The Elite 89™, an award founded by the NCAA, recognizes the true essence of the student-athlete by honoring the individual who has reached the pinnacle of competition at the national championship level in his or her sport, while also achieving the highest academic standard among his or her peers. The Elite 89™ is presented to the student-athlete with the highest cumulative grade-point average participating at the finals site for each of the NCAA's championships. Eligible student-athletes are sophomores or above who have participated in their sport for at least two years with their school. They must be an active member of the team, traveling and a designated member of the squad size at the championship. Lowry, the first Stonehill student-athlete to receive the Elite 89™ Award in the three years the NCAA has sponsored the program, is a senior captain for the Skyhawks men's basketball team that has captured the second East Regional championship in program history to reach the Elite Eight. He has earned a 3.79 cumulative grade point average as a marketing major at the College, with a minor in communication. Lowry has earned the St. Thomas Aquinas medal each of the last two years for having the highest GPA on the men's basketball team and he has earned NE-10 Commissioner's and Athletic Director's honor roll status every semester. He also serves as the men's basketball team representative on the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.
Last Time Out
Stonehill dominated the glass and shot over 50-percent from the field, to post a rousing 91-90 victory over No. 3-ranked West Liberty to kick start the 2012 NCAA Division II Elite Eight, yesterday afternoon. Seniors Andre Tongo (Acton, Mass.) and Patrick Lee (Fayetteville, N.Y.) provided huge leadership to key Stonehill's tenth-straight win. Tongo made 8-of-16 shots from the field, including 3-for-8 from three-point range, while converting 5-of-8 free-throws for a team-high 24 points (16 first half) to go with nine rebounds and a career-best six steals. Lee finished with 14 points, aided by 6-of-8 shooting from the free-throw line, six rebounds, two blocked shots and two steals. Freshman Jack Cole (New Providence, N.J.) had a big game inside with a season-high 15 points as he was a perfect 5-for-5 from the field, including a three-pointer, and 4-for-4 at the line with seven rebounds. Junior Raheem May-Thompson (London, England) added 14 points off the bench on 6-of-11 shooting from the field and 2-for-3 from the line to go with seven boards (four offensive), three assists and a steal. Stonehill shot 53.8-percent (14-for-26) from the field in the second half to finish at 50.8% (30-for-59) for the contest. The Skyhawks buried 10-of-19 (52.6%) three-pointers, including 5-for-7 (71.4%) in the opening half, and dominated the glass with a 39-29 margin, including 15 offensive rebounds, that resulted in a 16-7 Stonehill break on second chance points. West Liberty was limited to 49.2-percent (29-for-59) from the floor, including 9-for-23 (39.1%) from deep, while converting 23-of-31 (74.2%) free-throws. The Hilltoppers entered the game averaging a Division II-best 102.8 points per game, while also leading the country in assists per game (21.1), scoring margin (+21.1) and free-throw percentage (80.2%). A 16-2 run rallied West Liberty from five points down to a nine point lead (69-60) with 10:53 to play in regulation. Tongo was fouled shooting a three pointer, but made just one of three and the Hilltoppers extended the lead to ten (71-61) with 9:49 to play. Stonehill responded with a 14-2 run of its own to regain the lead (75-73) on a Tongo three-pointer with 6:39 remaining. A WLU layup with 5:52 left provided the last deadlock of the night (75-75) as a 9-2 Skyhawks spurt regained a seven point lead (84-77) after two Tongo free-throws with 3:51 on the clock. May-Thompson had four points during that stretch for the Skyhawks. West Liberty drew within a point (84-83) with 2:36 to play, but Stonehill again answered. Lee scored a tip-in and had a layup to push the lead back to five (88-83) with 35-seconds to go. Lee had the Skyhawks last seven points on the night to seal the win. His two free-throws with five seconds to play sealed it and helped stave off a pair of late three's from West Liberty in the final six seconds.
Stonehill seniors Patrick Lee (Fayetteville, N.Y.), Sean Lowry (Butler, Pa.) and Andre Tongo (Acton, Mass.) have set a new school record for wins by a class with its 92-30 (.754) record over their careers. The surpassed the previous record set by last year's senior class of Mike Kernan, Daniel Heppert and Sean Costigan who posted an 85-36 (.703) record over their four seasons. The four winningest classes in Stonehill history have all come during the last four seasons under head coach David McLaughlin.
This year's Division II Elite Eight field here in Highland Heights, Ky., features six regional No. 1 seeds and two regional No. 2 seeds. Stonehill is the lone remaining regional No. 2-seed after being one of two to reach the Elite Eight. Western Washington was the top-seed in the West Regional and is one of three No. 1 seeds to reach the Final Four after being one of six to advance to Kentucky.
Stonehill has won an East Region and season-best ten straight games and 11 of 12 entering tonight's national semifinal. The Skyhawks are averaging 72.7 points per game over the last nine game, while allowing just 62.6 per game. Stonehill is shooting 45.4-percent from the field, including 40.3% from three-point range, while its opponents are shooting 39.6% from the field, including 28.6% from deep. Junior Brian Hamor (Schenectady, N.Y.) is averaging 14.9 points, while senior Andre Tongo (Acton, Mass.) is contributing 14.1 points during that stretch.
Head coach David McLaughlin has led Stonehill to its second Elite Eight appearance in program history, but his two assistant coaches can also spare some Elite experience as well. Second year assistant Chris Kraus was a senior on McLaughlin's 2006 squad that made the first trip in Stonehill history and scored 17 points in the Skyhawks two games in the Elite Eight. First year assistant Mike Quinn played for two Elite Eight squads at NE-10 rival Bentley in 2008 and 2010.
Stonehill's bench is outscoring its opponent reserves by an average of 6.3 points per game (20.7-14.4) for the year, including a +10.7 (23.7-13.0) in seven postseason games. Junior Adam Fazzini (Drums, Pa.) leads the Skyhawk reserves with 9.0 points on a Northeast-10 Conference-best 46.4% (70-151) from beyond the arc, while adding 3.4 rebounds per game. Fazzini is contributing 9.9 points on 47.2% (17-36) shooting from deep, while converting 12-of-13 (92.3%) free-throws, during the postseason.
Head coach David McLaughlin became the winningest coach in program history when he posted his 172nd victory with Stonehill's 85-66 win over Merrimack in the quarterfinal round of the NE-10 Tournament, passing Hall of Famer Ray Pepin, who was 171-141 (.548) over his 11 seasons at the helm from 1984-1995. McLaughlin is now 178-83 (.682) in his nine seasons entering tonight's game.
Stonehill is making its 12th appearance in the NCAA Tournament and fifth under head coach David McLaughlin. The Skyhawks current run of four-straight NCAA Tournament trips in the longest in program history.