Merrimack Stops Stonehill, 51-43

Senior Patrick Lee posted his eighth double-double of the season with 16 points and 13 rebounds to lead the Skyhawks. (PHOTO BY Br. Charles McBride)

Warriors hold Skyhawks under 27-percent shooting for fourth win in last six

NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. (February 4, 2012) – Merrimack College took advantage of 27-percent shooting by Stonehill College to claim a 51-43 victory in Northeast-10 Conference women's basketball action at Volpe Center this afternoon.

Junior Mike Clifford (Danvers, Mass./Bishop Fenwick) posted a double-double to lead Merrimack as he totaled 14 points and a game-high 17 rebounds, while seniors Wayne Mack (Paterson, N.J./Paterson Catholic) and Aaron Strothers (Wareham, Mass./Marianapolis Prep) combined for 34 points. Mack made 4-of-9 shots from the field, including 2-for-4 from beyond the arc, and converted 7-of-8 free-throws to go with six rebounds, three assists and two steals. Strothers was 8-for-10 from the field and grabbed six rebounds (four offensive).

Senior Patrick Lee (Fayetteville, N.Y./Fayetteville-Manlius) posted his eighth double-double of the season (11th career) to lead Stonehill as he totaled 16 points and 13 rebounds (nine offensive) with three assists, three blocked shots and three steals. Lee made 7-of-14 shots from the field and converted both free-throw attempts, but the rest of the Skyhawks were a combined 9-for-46 (19.6%) from the field.

Senior Andre Tongo (Acton, Mass./Acton-Boxborough) added eight points, six rebounds and two steals for the Skyhawks, while junior Adam Fazzini (Drums, Pa./Crestwood) chipped in seven points and three boards off the bench.

Merrimack finished shooting 41.9-percent (18-for-43) from the field after hitting at 47.8% (11-23) in the opening half to build an eight point halftime lead (25-17) that would prove to be the difference. The Warriors posted a 41-34 rebounding advantage as well. Stonehill was held to 26.7% (16-60) shooting overall, including 3-for-21 (14.3%) from three-point range, making 8-of-32 (25%) shots in the second half. The Skyhawks posted a 12-0 scoring edge in bench points and a 15-6 margin in points off turnovers, but couldn't take advantage.

Stonehill scored six of the first eight points of the game, but Merrimack used a 17-0 run to turn a three point deficit less than seven minutes into the game into a 14 point lead (23-9) after a Strothers layup with 5:40 remaining.

Stonehill closed within eight (25-17) at the half and drew within five (27-22) after a Tongo three pointer less than two minutes into the second half. Lee scored a layup to pull the Skyhawks within three (29-26) at the five minute mark. Mack answered with a three-pointer, but sophomore Mitch Amelio (Carlsbad, Calif./La Jolla Country Day) was fouled shooting a three pointer and drained all three free-throws before Lee scored a put back and Fazzini scored a three-pointer to put Stonehill in front (34-32) with 10:19 left.

Neither team scored for the next three minutes before Mack knotted the score and then the teams traded free-throws before Merrimack took charge again. Tied at 35-35 with 5:58 remaining, the Warriors used a 10-2 spurt to regain an eight point cushion (45-37) after two free-throws by Mack with 1:41 to play. Junior Brian Hamor (Schenectady, N.Y./Bishop Gibbons) made one of two at the line, but the Skyhawks got the rebound on the miss and Tongo buried a three to pull the guests within four (45-41) with 1:28 to go. However, Merrimack did enough at the line, connecting on 6-of-8 from there, while Stonehill made just one of its final five shots to finally seal it.

Stonehill (14-7, 11-6 NE-10), among teams receiving votes in this week's NABC Division II poll, returns to action on Wednesday when it visits the University of Massachusetts Lowell at 7:30 p.m. The Skyhawks return home on Saturday, February 11, to host Saint Michael's College on Senior Day at 3:30 p.m. The game will also be Stonehill's annual "Play for Kay" Event to benefit the Kay Yow Fund for breast cancer awareness. Fans wearing pink to Saturday's game will be admitted free of charge. Merrimack (11-10, 8-9 NE-10) hosts Saint Anselm College on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.