SPARKILL, N.Y. - The Saint Michael's College men's basketball team fell to Mercy (N.Y.) College, 89-82, during both teams' season openers on Saturday during Saint Thomas Aquinas (N.Y.) College's Spartan Invitational at Aquinas Hall Gymnasium. The squads faced off in Saint Thomas Aquinas' tournament for the second straight year.
Junior Levi Holmes III (East Brunswick, N.J./Rutgers Prep) netted a career-high 29 points in 31 minutes for the Purple Knights, shooting 10-of-19 overall and 4-of-9 from three-point range while going 5-of-5 on free throws. He also matched his best with nine rebounds and was one of five players with exactly two assists. Junior Derek Cheatom (Buffalo, N.Y./The Park School of Buffalo) added 16 points in 18 minutes, shooting 4-of-5 from deep, while senior Colin Richey (Upton, Mass./Choate Rosemary Hall) had 11 points and five boards off the bench. In his first game at the NCAA level, junior transfer Jaylen Hall (Chicago, Ill./Lincoln Park/Richard J. Daley) tied his career high with six assists.
Junior Dequawne Richards posted 27 points and 11 rebounds for Mercy, and classmate Sal Barbetto added 22 points. Junior Chris Myers turned in 13 points, six rebounds and seven assists, while senior Brendon Smith blocked five shots.
Richards' lay-up 2:22 into the game had the Mavericks up 6-3 before the next 11 points came from Purple Knights, with Holmes' five points leading four scorers. Richards kept Mercy within 23-15 on a bucket with 11:09 in the first half before Cheatom scored six of his team's seven straight points, helping establish a game-high 15-point cushion with 8:36 to go, at 30-15. Richards scored seven quick points to carry his team within 36-28 by 4:22, but Cheatom drained a three four seconds later to create an 11-point edge. However, the Mavericks outscored Saint Michael's 15-2 in the final 3:36 of the half, going ahead on senior Kelvin Howard's buzzer-beating three. The run stretched to 17-2 early in the second period.
Four lead changes occurred during an early 2:24 span, and Mercy slowly built upon a 51-50 advantage with a 9-2 run. Saint Michael's twice chipped its deficit to three points down the stretch, at 69-66 on Cheatom's three with 6:12 to go and at 72-69 when sophomore Thomas Jackson III (Middletown, Conn./Holderness School) canned a triple with 4:39 left. However, Richards had four points in an 11-2 run that made it 83-72 at 1:57, and the Purple Knights were unable to trail again by any fewer than seven, which occurred just before the buzzer after their third three-pointer in the final 1:19.
The Purple Knights take on No. 5 Saint Thomas Aquinas tomorrow at 2 p.m. The Spartans, who advanced to the 2017 NCAA Tournament Elite Eight, are fifth in the National Association of Basketball Coaches' (NABC) preseason national poll.