NE-10 QUARTERFINALS: #3 Stonehill Shoots Past #6 Merrimack, 85-66

Head Coach David McLaughlin won his 172nd game in charge of Stonehill, setting a new program record for victories with today's decision. (PHOTO BY Bert Lane)

Skyhawks advance to Wednesday's semifinal round to face #2 Adelphi
McLaughlin nets 172nd career win to surpass Pepin atop program win charts
Class of 2012 becomes winningest class in program history with 86th victory

EASTON, Mass. (February 26, 2012) – Third-seeded Stonehill College, ranked fourth in this week's NCAA Division II East Regional rankings, enjoyed a milestone day in posting an 85-66 triumph over sixth-seeded Merrimack College, ranked seventh in the region, in quarterfinal round action of the 2012 Northeast-10 Conference men's basketball tournament at Merkert Gymnasium this afternoon.

Stonehill (19-8, 15-7 NE-10) advances to Wednesday's semifinal round of the NE-10 Tournament and will visit second-seeded Adelphi University (20-7, 16-6 NE-10) in Garden City, N.Y., at 7 p.m. The Panthers advanced with a 54-51 triumph over tenth-seeded University of New Haven in their quarterfinal matchup this afternoon. The Skyhawks victory snaps a string of four-straight NE-10 Tournament defeats dating back to 60-47 victory over Pace University in the quarterfinals of the 2008 tournament. Merrimack now awaits word on an NCAA Tournament bid with a 15-12 record overall, 12-10 in NE-10 play.

Stonehill saw a pair of milestones accomplished with today's win as head coach David McLaughlin became the winningest head coach in program history with his 172nd career win, surpassing Hall of Famer Ray Pepin who posted a 171-141 (.548) record over 11 years at the helm from 1984-1995. McLaughlin is now 172-83 (.675) over his nine seasons at Stonehill. Skyhawks seniors Patrick Lee (Fayetteville, N.Y./Fayetteville-Manlius), Sean Lowry (Butler, Pa./Butler) and Andre Tongo (Acton, Mass./Acton-Boxborough) also established history by becoming the winningest class in program history with an 86-30 (.741) mark over their careers, surpassing the previous mark of 85-36 (.702) set by their former teammates from the Class of 2011.

Tongo led the way for Stonehill with 19 points (15 second half) on 7-of-13 shooting from the field and converting all four free-throw attempts to go with a game-high matching seven rebounds, two assists and two steals. Junior Brian Hamor (Schenectady, N.Y./Bishop Gibbons) added 15 points, seven assists, two boards and two blocked shots as he connected on 4-of-9 shots from the field and converted all six of his free-throw attempts.

Senior Andre Tongo led the Skyhawks with 19 points and seven rebounds on Sunday. (PHOTO BY Bert Lane)

Sophomore Mitch Amelio (Carlsbad, Calif./La Jolla Country Day) provided a spark of the bench as he scored 11 of his career-high 14 points in the opening half to lead a Stonehill bench that outscored the Merrimack reserves 28-4. He made 5-of-7 shots from the field, including 4-for-6 from three-point range on the afternoon. Freshman Jack Cole (New Providence, N.J./New Providence) made all four of his shots from the field on his way to ten points to go with six boards, while Lee added ten points on 5-of-7 shooting with five boards, three assists and four steals.

Senior Wayne Mack (Paterson, N.J./Paterson Catholic) led all scorers with a game-high 26 points to lead Merrimack as he shot 9-of-16 from the field and converted 8-of-10 free-throws to go with a game-high matching seven rebounds over 40 minutes. Junior Mike Clifford (Danvers, Mass./Bishop Fenwick) added 11 points, aided by 7-for-7 shooting from the line, and six rebounds, while senior Aaron Strothers (Wareham, Mass./Marianopolis Prep) posted 11 points on 4-of-6 shooting from the floor while canning all three free-throw attempts to go with two blocked shots and two steals. Senior Wilfredo Pagan (Lawrence, Mass./Central Catholic) rounded out the double-figure scorers with ten points, drilling 3-of-5 three's, with two boards and three steals.

Stonehill shot 50.9-percent (29-for-57) from the field, including 55.6% (15-27) in the second half to pull away, while draining 9-of-21 (42.9%) three-pointers and converting 18-of-23 (78.3%) free-throws. The Skyhawks posted a 35-29 rebounding edge, limiting Merrimack to just five offensive rebounds that resulted in a 14-5 advantage in second chance points. Stonehill also outscored the Warriors 20-11 off turnovers. Merrimack shot 41.2-percent (21-for-51) overall, including 38.5% (10-26) in the second half, and connected on just 3-of-14 (21.4%) from beyond the arc. The Warriors converted 21-of-26 (80.8%) shots from the line.

Stonehill started strong, jumping out to an 11-4 lead after a Lee jumper 4:45 in. Hamor opened the game with a three-pointer and added another basket for five points during that stretch. The Skyhawks extended the lead to nine (18-9) after a Cole tip-in with 13:38 in the half on their way to a 13 point margin (32-19) on a three-pointer by junior Adam Fazzini (Drums, Pa./Crestwood) with 6:35 remaining in the half.

Merrimack responded with 11-straight points to close within two (32-30) on a Mack jumper with 2:35 left in the frame. Mack had six points in all during that stretch. Stonehill answered by scoring the final ten points of the half, keyed by a pair of triples from Amelio, to carry a 12 point (42-30) lead into halftime, capped by a Lee layup.

After the teams traded baskets over the opening two minutes of the second half, Stonehill stretched its lead to 17 (54-37) with a Fazzini three ball 5:50 in. The Skyhawks reeled off a 14-2 run to extend the lead to 24 (63-39) after an Amelio three with 11:57 to play and Merrimack never seriously threatened again. Stonehill pushed the margin to a game-high 28 (73-45) with a tip-in by junior Raheem May-Thompson (London, England/Towson (Md.) Catholic) with 7:22 remaining before settling for the 19-point winning margin.

Highlights and Postgame Interviews