With the win, the Bison clinch the No. 1 seed for the Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC) tournament, and improve to 22-3 overall, tying the program record for regular season wins. The Bison will host the No. 8-seed Western New England on Tuesday night for the opening round of the CCC tournament, while the Leopards earn the No. 6 seed with a 14-11 overall record and 10-8 mark against conference opponents. Wentworth will travel to No. 3 Endicott on Tuesday night for a 5:30 p.m. tipoff.
Both teams battled back and forth to open the contest, before senior Cesar Fulcar (Watertown, Mass.) broke a 6-6 tie with a deep shot from downtown. Sophomore Deante Bruton (New London, Conn.) grabbed the defensive board after a block from classmate Jerome Cunningham (Westbury, N.Y.) and cut the lead by one, 9-8, but senior Sam Knollmeyer (Hampton, N.H.) knocked down two at the line to keep the lead in favor of Wentworth 13-10. Freshman Matt Morrow (Leicester, Mass.) sank a jumper at the 15-minute mark to again pull the Bison within a single point, 13-12, but the Leopards answered with a 13-0 run, capped by a pair of free throws from junior Zach Bergeon (Litchfield, N.H.), to take their largest lead of the game at 26-12 with 10:25 to play in the half.
Nichols started to chip away, and a three-point play from junior Marcos Echevarria (Lynn, Mass.) cut the Wentworth lead by ten, 32-22 with less than five minutes remaining. The Bison rode momentum until the halftime buzzer, as Morrow ignited a 12-0 run with 4:14 left to go in the half, capped by an Echevarria triple in the closing seconds, to give the Bison a 34-32 lead headed into the break.
The Bison carried their energy into the second half, knocking down back-to-back opening treys for a 40-34 advantage. Fulcar tied the game at 40-40, but a 12-2 run by the Bison extended the lead to 54-42 with 11:23 remaining. Two more back-to-back threes from senior Daequon Antoine (Fort Mill, S.C.) pushed the Nichols advantage to 60-45, but the Leopards continued to fight back, using a 16-10 run to pull to 70-61 with 2:35 remaining.
Bruton and Wentworth senior Ben Kizel (Short Hills, N.J.) traded three-pointers, but a pair of Antoine free throws followed by a layup from Bruton put the Bison ahead for good, 77-64, with 1:23 remaining. Wentworth would continue to hit shots down the stretch, but Echevarria connected on four-straight freebies to keep the Leopards at bay and help the Bison hang on for the 81-72 win.
Three Leopards hit double figures on the scoreboard, led by senior Jason Ganley (Northbridge, Mass.) with 20 points. Fulcar and Knollmeyer finished with 12 points apiece, with Fulcar leading the Leopards on the glass with 11 rebounds.
Echevarria poured in a game-high 22 points, highlighted by 14-for-15 shooting from the free throw line. Antoine followed with 18 points and 10 rebounds, while Bruton finished with 13 points, five rebounds, and four assists. Classmate Tyler Dion registered 10 points to go with five assists, while Morrow recorded 12 points in the victory to round out double-digits for the Bison.
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