BOSTON, Mass – Senior forward Erik Callo's (Southington, Conn.) layup with 44 seconds left snapped a 66-all tie and his two free throws with 18 seconds left sealed the game as the third-seeded Endicott College men's basketball team rallied from an 11-point deficit with seven minutes remaining to defeat second-seeded Wentworth, 71-67, in the semifinal round of the Commonwealth Coast Conference Tournament.
With the win the Gulls (19-8) advance to their first CCC title game since the 2005-06 season and will travel to top-seeded Salve Regina, an 81-80 winner over fourth-seeded Nichols.
Wentworth opened the game on a 10-2 run, capped off by a 3-pointer from senior guard Adam Dombrowski (Dunstable, Mass.) with 16:47 left. Endicott responded with an 8-0 run of its own, tying the game at 10-all on a senior forward Aaron Karkow (Uncasvile, Conn.) fastbreak layup. The Leopards re-gained the lead on a junior guard Corey Therriault (Auburn, N.H.) basket, but five straight points from the Gulls' junior guard Lance Green (Dorchester, Mass.) put the visitors ahead, 15-12.
The Leopards tied the game on a Therriualt 3-pointer and held a 23-19 lead with 7:38 left in the half. Endicott scored four straight points to tie the game at 23-all before Wentworth eventually pulled ahead, 35-30, on a layup from senior guard Eric Prue (Auburn, Maine) with 1:00 left in the half.
A pair of free throws from sophomore guard Tyler Burkhart (Cromwell, Conn.) with 33 seconds left cut the lead to three, and, after a missed shot by the Leopards, Callo grabbed a rebound and fed sophomore guard Nick Maglio (Barrington, R.I.) to make it a 35-34 game at the break. Endicott shot 50 percent from the floor in the first half and had 12 of its 35 points in transition, while Wentworth was held to 39.4 percent from the floor.
Freshman guard John Henault's (Lunenberg, Mass.) 3-pointer gave Endicott a 37-35 lead to open the second half and the Gulls found themselves leading by three on a Callo jumper with 17:39 left in the game. Wentworth responded by holding Endicott scoreless over the next 6:27 and taking an 11-point lead, thanks in part to four points from freshman guard Nico Donato (Glastonbury, Conn.). The Leopards held an 11-point lead three more times, including when freshman forward John-Michael Fragnoli (Scotia, N.Y.) hit a jumper with 7:01 left.
Endicott began its comeback when Greene converted a four-point play with 6:50 left and Callo followed with a putback. After a free throw by sophomore guard Lachlan Magee (Melbourne, Australia) made it a four-point game with 4:52 left, Prue put the hosts back up by seven with a 3-pointer with 4:03 to play. The Gulls answered with a 12-1 run and led, 66-62, when Greene converted a 3-point play with 2:22 left.
Dombrowski's foul line jumper with 2:00 left cut the lead in half and sophomore guard Derek Mayo (Casco, Maine) tied the game at 66-all with two free throws with 1:10 left.
On Endicott's next possession Callo put the Gulls ahead for good with a layup with 44 seconds left. The Leopards had two chances to tie the game, and, after an Endicott turnover with 22 ticks remaining, missed another chance to tie the contest. Callo was fouled on the rebound and hit both free throws to double the lead. Wentworth missed two 3-pointers and on the third rebound, Therriault was fouled with 0.8 seconds left. He would hit the first free throw, but his intentional miss on the second failed to hit the rim. Greene was fouled on the inbounds pass, hitting one of two free throws to end the game.
Greene led all Gulls in scoring with 20 points on 7-of-9 shooting from the floor to go along with seven rebounds, three assists, and three steals. Callo scored 12 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, while Henault and Burkhart scored 11 and 10 points, respectively. Endicott shot 50 percent from the floor from the game and scored 20 points off of 16 Leopard turnovers.
Wentworth had four players in double figures, led by Therriault's 20 points, which came on 8-for12 shooting from the floor. He also had a game-high four steals. Mayo had 12 points and six rebounds, while Prue and Dombrowski added 10 points apiece. The Leopards held a slim, 34-32 rebounding advantage.
The Leopards stand at 17-10 and will find out Monday if they will be invited to their third consecutive ECAC Division III New England Tournament.