Stonehill Set to Open Postseason Play Against UMass Lowell

Senior Mike Kernan averages a double-double to lead the Skyhawks into postseason play on Monday. (PHOTO BY Bert Lane) 

Third-seeded Skyhawks host sixth-seeded River Hawks in NE-10 Quarterfinal

EASTON, Mass. (February 27, 2010) – Third-seeded Stonehill College, among teams receiving votes in the most recent NABC Division II poll and ranked second in last week's NCAA Division II East Regional poll, opens postseason play on Monday night when it hosts sixth-seeded University of Massachusetts Lowell, ranked fifth in the region, in quarterfinal round action of the 2011 Northeast-10 Conference Men's Basketball Championships at Merkert Gymnasium at 7 p.m.

Admission will be $7.00 for adults, $4.00 for students and senior citizens with college students with valid ID admitted for $1.00. The first 100 Stonehill students in attendance on Monday night will be admitted free of charge courtesy of the College's Office of Student Affairs when presenting their "Hillcard" at the ticket table. Monday's game will also be webcast live via for $6.99 with the "Voice of the Skyhawks" Charlie Bergeron providing the play-by-play, along with Brian Buckley. The game is also part of's All-Access subscription package.

While Stonehill (21-6, 16-6 NE-10) earned a bye through the first round into tomorrow night's quarterfinal, UMass Lowell (19-8, 14-8 NE-10) advanced with a 75-66 victory over 11th-seeded Merrimack College in Saturday's first round. Sophomore Matt Welch (Lowell, Mass./Lowell) and freshmen Akeem Williams (Brockton, Mass./The Winchendon School) and Antonio Bivins (Miami, Fla./American) all scored 21 points to lead the River Hawks yesterday. Welch also added nine rebounds, two assists and two blocks, while Williams finished with four assists and three steals. Bivins scored his 21 off the bench on 8-of-12 shooting from the field, while converting 4-of-5 free-throws, to go with four steals.

The winner of tomorrow night's game will advance to Thursday's semifinal round of the NE-10 Tournament where it will meet the winner of tomorrow's quarterfinal between seventh-seeded Adelphi University (17-10, 12-10 NE-10) and second-seeded American International College (20-7, 16-6 NE-10) at 7 p.m. The NE-10 Championship will be played on Saturday at the home of the higher seed at 1 p.m.

Senior Daniel Heppert, the NE-10 Defensive Player of the Year, spearheads the NE-10's top defense. (PHOTO BY Bert Lane)

Stonehill, who has dropped five of its last six postseason contests after suffering a quarterfinal round exit to a ninth-seeded Adelphi squad last winter, seeks its first trip to the NE-10 Championship game since 2006 and first tournament title since 1989. The Skyhawks have won three NE-10 tournament championships in program history: 1981, '82 and '89.

Stonehill enters the postseason winners of three of its last four, eight of ten and 16 of 19 despite a tough 52-51 setback to 24th-ranked Bentley University on Wednesday night. The Skyhawks boast the top defense in the NE-10, leading the Conference in scoring defense (59.5 ppg) and blocked shots (4.8/gm) while ranking second in field goal percentage defense (.387) and three-point field goal percentage defense (.298). Stonehill is also the top rebounding team in the NE-10, out rebounding its opponents by 9.1 per game (nearly seven rebounds per game than second place Bentley), and pulling in 40.7 boards per game (3rd NE-10). The Skyhawks also lead the NE-10 in field goal percentage (.460).

Stonehill is led by a trio of upperclassmen who all recently collected postseason honors from the NE-10 head coaches. Senior Mike Kernan (Medford, N.J./Shawnee), a second team All-NE-10 selection, is averaging a double-double for the Skyhawks with 12.3 points and 10.5 rebounds (2nd NE-10), with 1.1 blocked shots (7th) in 31.4 minutes per game. Junior Ivan Almeida (Praia, Cape Verde), also a second team All-Conference selection, leads a balanced Skyhawks scoring unit with 13 points per game to go with six rebounds, 1.3 blocked shots (6th) and a steal per contest. Senior Daniel Heppert (Richmond, Va./Benedictine), the NE-10 Defensive Player of the Year, also contributes 10.2 points, 5.7 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.3 steals per contest.

Stonehill is 9-1 this season when junior Ivan Almeida leads the way in scoring. (PHOTO BY Richard Orr)

UMass Lowell leads the NE-10 in turnover margin (+3.37/gm) and steals (9.8/gm), forcing opponents into 17.3 turnovers per game while committing just 14 per contest. The River Hawks rank fifth in the Conference in scoring (71.7 ppg) and eighth in scoring defense (68.2 ppg). UML enters tomorrow night's game winners of three straight (all at home) and five of six after a 30-point loss to Stonehill on February 5.

Williams, an NE-10 All-Rookie team selection, leads UMass Lowell with 17.8 points (5th NE-10), 3.8 rebounds, three assists and 1.9 steals (7th) in 32.5 minutes per game in his first collegiate season. Welch averages 14.5 points and 5.2 rebounds, while sophomore Romeo Diaz (Methuen, Mass./Methuen) contributes 9.6 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.7 assists per contest.

Monday night marks the third meeting of the season between these two squads after Stonehill swept the regular season series. The Skyhawks rallied for a 69-58 win over the River Hawks in Lowell on January 2 behind a double-double effort of 16 points, ten rebounds and three steals from Heppert. Stonehill cruised to an 86-56 triumph over UMass Lowell in Easton earlier this month as Almeida finished with 22 points, 13 rebounds and four blocked shots on February 5.

Almeida averaged 19 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.5 blocked shots over two games against UMass Lowell this season, while Heppert contributed 12.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and two steals. Stonehill averaged 77.5 points per game against the River Hawks on 50-percent shooting from the field, including 10-for-22 (45.5%) from three-point range, and posted a +17.5 rebounding margin. Williams averaged 15.5 points and two steals over two games against Stonehill this season, while Bivins contributed 14 points, seven rebounds and two steals. UML scored 57 points per game on 35-percent shooting from the field, including 7-for-38 (18.4%) from beyond the arc.

Coach's Corner with David McLaughlin
2011 Northeast-10 Conference
Men's Basketball Championships

Saturday, February 26
First Round

#5 Saint Anselm 77, #12 Assumption 61
#6 UMass Lowell 75, #11 Merrimack 66
#7 Adelphi 79, #10 Southern Connecticut State 71
#9 Saint Michael's 66, #8 Le Moyne 60

Monday, February 28
#5 Saint Anselm (19-8, 14-8 NE-10) at #4 Saint Rose (20-7, 15-7 NE-10), 7 p.m.
#6 UMass Lowell (19-8, 14-8 NE-10) at #3 Stonehill (21-6, 16-6 NE-10), 7 p.m.
#7 Adelphi (17-10, 12-10 NE-10) at #2 American International (20-7, 16-6 NE-10), 7 p.m.
#9 Saint Michael's (13-14, 10-12 NE-10) at #1 Bentley (20-6, 18-4 NE-10), 7 p.m.
Thursday, March 3
Semifinals (at higher seeds)
UMass Lowell/Stonehill winner vs. Adelphi/American International winner, 7 p.m.
St. Anselm/St. Rose winner vs. St. Michael's/Bentley winner, 7 p.m.
Saturday, March 5
Semifinal Winners at highest remaining seed, 1 p.m.