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Key Second Half Run Lifts Nichols Past Men's Basketball in CCC Semifinals

Key Second Half Run Lifts Nichols Past Men's Basketball in CCC Semifinals

DUDLEY, Mass. – An 18-0 run midway through the second half erased a seven-point deficit and helped lift the top-seeded Nichols College men's basketball team to an 83-74 victory over fifth-seeded Wentworth Institute of Technology in a Commonwealth Coast Conference semifinal on Thursday night.

With the win the Bison run their win streak to 10 games, improving to 22-5 on the season, and will host second-seeded and two-time defending league champion Endicott in Saturday's conference championship. The Leopards, who were just 2-7 after their first nine games, conclude their season with a 14-13 record. This marks the second straight season and seventh time in the last eight campaigns the Black & Gold have finished above .500.

Senior Dan DeVaux (Wethersfield, Conn.) buried a pair of three pointers and would score eight of Wentworth's first 16 points as the Leopards took a 16-10 lead. Nichols came back to score 14 of the next 18 points and took a 24-20 lead with 8:38 left in the half. Freshman DeAndre Bruton (New London, Conn.) had 10 points during the run.

With 3:51 remaining, junior Jason Ganley (Northbridge, Mass.) drained a pair of free throws to put the Leopards ahead by two points (30-28) and freshman Matt Vartanian (Salem, N.H.) followed with two more free throws to make it a four-point game with 3:16 left. A freshman Tyler Dion (Barre, Mass.) three with just over a minute left cut the lead to 32-31, which is how the half ended.

The Leopards opened the second half by outscoring the Bison 15-9 and took a 47-40 lead following a DeVaux three-ball. However, Nichols responded with 18 straight points and took the lead for good, 58-47, with 6:21 left in the contest. Bruton had six points during the run while senior Devin Stallings (Waterbury, Conn.) and sophomore Marcos Echevarria (Lynn, Mass.) added five apiece. Two free throws from junior Cesar Fulcar (Watertown, Mass.) ended the run, however Echevarria responded with a three to push the lead to 12. After one of two free throws from Fulcar, Stallings and Echevarria connected on back-to-back threes to extend the lead to 17 with four minutes remaining.

A late, 16-8 run pulled the visitors within nine with 1:19 remaining, however a dunk from Stallings at the other end pushed the lead to double digits.

Four players scored in double figures for Nichols in the win. Buron scored 26 points and eight rebounds while Echevarria added 21 points, six rebounds, and seven assists. Stallings had 16 points and six rebounds and freshman Jerome Cunningham (Westbury, N.Y.) had a double-double, scoring 11 points and grabbing 16 rebounds while also blocking three shots.

Ganley led all scorers with a season high-matching 30 points while also grabbing nine rebounds. In his final game in a Leopard uniform, DeVaux scored 20 points – 18 of which came from behind the arc – and grabbed six rebounds.

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