Men's basketball erases 18-point deficit before fending off Stonehill, 66-64

Men's basketball erases 18-point deficit before fending off Stonehill, 66-64

EASTON, Mass. - The Saint Michael's College men's basketball team erased an 18-point first-half deficit before forcing Stonehill College to miss three potential game-tying hoops in the final 24 seconds, holding on for a 66-64 victory on Saturday in Merkert Gymnasium. The Purple Knights are now 16-5 overall and 11-5 in the Northeast-10 Conference, their highest league win total since claiming 12 victories in 2006-07, and remain one game out of first place in the Northeast Division. The Skyhawks slipped to 7-14 and 4-12.

Saint Michael's has won three straight against Stonehill after capturing only three victories in the prior 18 meetings, and is 3-0 in Merkert Gymnasium this winter after winning twice during the Skyhawks' November tip-off tournament. Junior Mike Holton Jr. (Portland, Ore./The Winchendon School) tallied a game-high 21 points on 9-of-14 shooting, classmate James Cambronne (De Bary, Fla./The Winchendon School) had 14 points and eight rebounds, and junior Corey Crawford II (Dover, Del./The Phelps School) went 3of-5 from three-point range for 13 points. With 1,252 career points, Holton is 11 shy of matching Brendan Mullins '07 for 21st in school history.

Junior Mike Thompson (Rosedale, N.Y./Christ The King Regional) hauled in 10 rebounds for the Purple Knights, and first-year Matt Bonds (Accokeek, Md./North Point) posted nine points.

Junior Jack Cole (New Providence, N.J./New Providence) led Stonehill with 16 points, 11 rebounds and four assists, while sophomores Josh Heyliger (Queens, N.Y./The Hill School) and Carter Smith (Columbus, Ohio/Upper Arlington) both tallied 11 points. Classmate Pierce Cumpstone (Bainbridge Township, Ohio/Kenston) added eight rebounds.

Cole dropped in a lay-up and was fouled with 54 seconds left to bring Stonehill within 66-64. The ensuing missed free throw was snared by the hosts, but the resulting possession included a missed jumper at 24 seconds, and another offensive board and missed lay-up at 21 seconds that the Purple Knights controlled. After being fouled, the visitors missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 16 seconds remaining, leading to Stonehill holding for the final shot, but a missed lay-up with two seconds left was recovered by Crawford, who ran out the clock.

Cambronne drained a three-pointer 26 seconds into the game to give the Purple Knights a 3-2 edge, but Stonehill scored the next eight points. Another Cambronne bucket brought the visitors within 10-8, but the Skyhawks reeled off a 15-3 run, during which seven different players scored, and the hosts eventually led 32-14 at the 7:27 mark of the opening half. In just a 3:17 span, the Purple Knights put 15 consecutive points on the board, including Holton tallying 12 straight in a matter of 2:55, and the visitors trailed just 32-29 by 3:55. Saint Michael's twice edged within two, including when sophomore Morrell Gaskins (Cambria Heights, N.Y./Archbishop Molloy) made it 37-35 in the final minute of the stanza to produce the halftime score.

Cambronne converted a three-point play 4:26 into the second half to put the Purple Knights up 40-39 for their first lead since the opening minute of the game, and Bonds' ensuing lay-up capped a 28-7 run to provide a 42-39 edge with 14:17 remaining. That marked the beginning of a back-and-forth final 15:34 of the game that included five lead changes and five ties. Down 44-42 after another Holton jumper, Stonehill used a 12-4 run to grab a 54-48 lead by 8:21, but Saint Michael's responded with a 9-2 stretch, as Crawford accounted for seven of the points, including nailing a three to put his team ahead 58-56 with 6:27 to go. Bonds then snapped the final tie with a lay-up at 5:53, and Holton's jumper 1:27 later made it 62-58. However, Stonehill countered that bucket and each of the next two Purple Knight hoops to maintain its two-point deficit heading into the final frantic minute.

With a three-game road swing complete, Saint Michael's returns home to face Saint Anselm College on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. The Purple Knights, who lost their first match-up this year with the Hawks, are 9-1 at home.