Stonehill Hosts Merrimack in NE-10 Quarterfinal Sunday

Seniors Patrick Lee (left) and Andre Tongo lead the Skyhawks into the postseason and look to become part of the winningest class in program history with a win on Sunday. (PHOTO BY Richard Orr)

Third-seeded Skyhawks and sixth-seeded Warriors to battle at Merkert Gym at 1 p.m. 

EASTON, Mass. (February 24, 2012) – Third-seeded Stonehill College, ranked fourth in this week's NCAA Division II East Regional rankings, will host sixth-seeded Merrimack College, ranked seventh in the region, for quarterfinal round action of the 2012 Northeast-10 Conference Men's Basketball Tournament at Merkert Gymnasium on Sunday at 1 p.m.

Admission will be $7.00 for adults, $4.00 for children and senior citizens and $1.00 for students from participating colleges with a valid ID. The first 100 Stonehill students will be admitted free of charge when presenting their "Hillcard" at the ticket stand. The game will also be webcast live via, with The Voice of the Skyhawks Charlie Bergeron bringing you the action, along with Brian Buckley. Radio coverage will also be provided by WSHL 91.3 FM.

Stonehill (18-8, 15-7 NE-10), who closed out the regular season with three straight wins and victories in four of its last five, is making its eighth-straight appearance in the NE-10 Tournament and 28th overall. The Skyhawks have won three NE-10 tournament titles (1989, 1982 and 1981) and reached the championship game five times – the last coming in 2006. Stonehill looks to snap a string of four-straight NE-10 Tournament setbacks, the last three coming in its opening quarterfinal round contest, including a 79-69 decision to sixth-seeded University of Massachusetts Lowell in Merkert Gym last February.

Stonehill brings the NE-10's top defense into the postseason as the Skyhawks lead the Conference in scoring defense (57.8 ppg), field goal percentage defense (.398) and blocked shots (4.6/gm), while also ranking third for three-point field goal percentage defense (.324) and rebounding margin (+3.2/gm). Stonehill ranks 11th in scoring offense (65.8 ppg), sixth in three-point shooting percentage (.374) and third in rebounds (37.7/gm), including a Conference-best 12.8 offensive rebounds per game, and second in fewest turnovers per game (12.7).

Junior Brian Hamor, a second team All-Conference pick, leads the Skyhawks in scoring with 14 points per game. (PHOTO BY Richard Orr)

Senior Patrick Lee (Fayetteville, N.Y./Fayetteville-Manlius) is the backbone of the Stonehill defensive effort, and was named the NE-10 Defensive Player of the Year. The third team All-Northeast-10 selection has started all 25 of the games he has played this season and is averaging 11 points and a team-high 8.6 rebounds (2nd NE-10), with 1.3 assists, 1.1 blocked shots (9th) and 1.2 steals in 30.5 minutes per game. He is shooting 48.9-percent from the field, including 5-for-9 (55.6%) from three-point range. Classmate Andre Tongo (Acton, Mass./Acton-Boxborough) is also a key factor for the Skyhawks on both ends of the floor, averaging 12.2 points, aided by 38.1-percent (56-for-147) from deep, 4.8 rebounds, 1.3 assists and a team-high 1.3 steals in 31 minutes per game.

Juniors Brian Hamor (Schenectady, N.Y./Bishop Gibbons) and Sam Markle (Bethany, Conn./Saint Thomas More) man the backcourt for Stonehill. Hamor, a second-team All-Northeast-10 honoree, leads the Skyhawks in scoring with 14 points (15th NE-10) on 41.1-percent shooting from the field, including 35% (43-123) from beyond the arc, and converting 70.4% (88-125) of his free-throws, to go with 3.3 rebounds and 3.2 assists (14th) in a team-high 32.5 minutes per game. Markle mans the point with 4.1 assists (8th), compared to just 2.7 turnovers, and chipping in 4.4 points and a steal per game.

Stonehill is also getting solid production from freshman Jack Cole (New Providence, N.J./New Providence) in the starting lineup with 4.5 points, 5.3 rebounds and a team-high 1.7 blocks per game (6th) in his rookie season. Junior Adam Fazzini (Drums, Pa./Crestwood) provides a team-high 8.8 points off the bench on a team-best 46.1-percent (53-115) shooting from three-point range (3rd) in 24.3 minutes per game.

Junior Adam Fazzini provides a spark off the bench for the Skyhawks, leading the team in three point percentage. (PHOTO BY Marcus Snowden)

Merrimack, making its 26th NE-10 Tournament appearance, has won a pair of 

tournament titles (1992 & 2000) and reached the finals three times in total. The Warriors, who had a five game winning streak (all home games) halted with a 73-60 setback at top-seeded and NE-10 regular season co-champions Franklin Pierce on Tuesday, rank sixth in the NE-10 for scoring defense (65.5 ppg) and seventh in scoring (68.0 ppg) offense. While Merrimack has won its last seven home games to close out the regular season, it has dropped three road games.

Merrimack is led by the efforts of senior Wayne Mack (Paterson, N.J./Paterson Catholic), a first team All-Northeast-10 selection, who is averaging 16.2 points (6th), 5.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 2.4 steals (2nd) in 38.3 minutes per game. He is shooting 44.4-percent from the field, including 38.1% (45-118) from beyond the arc, and converts a Conference-best 85.8% (91-106) of his free-throws.

Senior Aaron Strothers (Wareham, Mass./Marianapolis Prep) adds 13.6 points (16th), on a team-high 58% shooting from the floor (3rd), 5.6 rebounds and nearly a block per game. Junior Mike Clifford (Danvers, Mass./Bishop Fenwick) is the other half to the Warriors potent interior game, contributing 13.3 points, on 56.7% shooting (6th), and Conference-best nine rebounds per game. Senior Roland Davis (Deer Park, N.Y./St. Dominic's) rounds out the double-figure scorers for Merrimack with 12.2 points, 3.8 rebounds and 4.2 assists (4th) per outing.

Sunday will mark just the third postseason encounter between these two programs, both coming in the NE-10 Tournament. The two clubs have split the previous two meetings, with Merrimack notching a thrilling 88-87 triple-overtime triumph in the semifinal round of the 1992 tournament. Stonehill posted a 91-79 victory in the first postseason encounter during the 1989 semifinals.

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The two teams also split the regular season series between the two with each winning at home. Stonehill rallied from seven points down in the final minute of regulation on its way to a 73-64 overtime victory at Merkert Gym on November 27, before Merrimack took advantage of 27-percent shooting by the Skyhawks for a 51-43 decision in North Andover on February 4. Lee averaged a double-double over the two games with 18 points and 11 rebounds to go with three steals, 1.5 assists and 1.5 blocked shots, shooting 60.7-percent (17-for-28) from the field. Mack averaged 20 points, 8.5 rebounds, three steals and 2.5 assists for the Warriors, shooting 55.6-percent (15-27) from the field and converting 7-of-10 (70%) free-throw attempts.

The winner of Sunday's matchup will advance to the semifinal round on Wednesday, February 29, to battle the winner of another NE-10 quarterfinal between second-seeded Adelphi University (19-7, 16-6 NE-10), co-regular season champions, and either first round victor University of New Haven (14-12, 10-12 NE-10) and seventh-seeded Pace University (13-13, 11-11 NE-10) at 7 p.m., on the home court of the higher seed. The NE-10 Championship game is slated for Saturday, March 3, at 1 p.m.

2012 Northeast-10 Conference
Men's Basketball Championships
Friday, February 24th
First Round
Game 1: #10 New Haven (14-12, 10-12 NE-10) at #7 Pace (13-13, 11-11 NE-10), 7 p.m.
Game 2: #9 Assumption (13-13, 11-11 NE-10) at #8 Bentley (15-11, 11-11 NE-10), 7 p.m.
Sunday, February 26th
Game 3: Game 2 winner at #1 Franklin Pierce (20-6, 16-6 NE-10), 3:30 p.m.
Game 4: Game 1 winner at #2 Adelphi (19-7, 16-6 NE-10), 1 p.m.
Game 5: #6 Merrimack (15-11, 12-10 NE-10) at #3 Stonehill (18-8, 15-7 NE-10), 1 p.m.
Game 6: #5 Southern Connecticut State (14-12, 12-10 NE-10) at #4 UMass Lowell (17-9, 13-9 NE-10), 1 p.m.

Wednesday, February 29th
Semifinals (at higher seeds)
Game 7: Game 6 winner vs. Game 3 winner, 7 p.m.
Game 8: Game 5 winner vs. Game 4 winner, 7 p.m.

Saturday, March 3rd

Championship (at higher seed)
Game 9: Game 8 winner vs. Game 7 winner, 1 p.m.