First round victory
Hunter O. Lyle—Sports Editor
In their second consecutive year hosting the first round of the NE10 playoffs, Southern snuck past Stonehill College with a big effort from senior guard Kealen Ives.
Coming in as the fourth seed, (12-8 in NE10) in the Southwest Division, the Owls took on the fifth seed in the Northeast Division Stonehill (8-13 in NE10), who they lost to earlier this season.
The game started off with the Skyhawks shooting lights out from deep. Junior guard Brandon Twitty caused the most trouble for the Owls early, connecting on his first five shots from deep, while the rest of the Skyhawks shot 4-7 from deep (57 percent), for a team total of 9-12 (75 percent).
Southern’s head coach Scott Burrell said the team knew how much of a problem Stonehill’s shooting was going to be, and the team focused the early game plan on preventing that.
“[Stonehill] came out hot, they were on fire. Nine for 12 in the first half, and that’s what sparked their lead, and sparked their energy,” said Burrell.
After giving Stonehill a 20-11 lead with just over 12 minutes left in the first half of play, Ives started to pour it on, slicing and dicing to collect 20 points in just the first half, and bringing the Owls within three at halftime, 43-40.
“In the second half, we played better defense. We contained their shot, contested their threes, contained their drives,” said Burrell. “When we play good defense, it’s going to start transitioning to buckets and will pick up the energy, and we made some huge shots tonight.”
Ives said he and the rest of the team were motivated by the harsh fact that the season could have been over.
“I didn’t want to end my career like that,” said Ives. “The next game could possibly be my last game, so I just want to give it everything I got.”
Coming out of the halftime break, the Owls seemed to picked up where they left off. Ives continued to shake the defense and score at will, giving the Owls a two-point lead with 10 minutes remaining. Stonehill kept the game close, continuously hitting deep shots and flipping the lead several times late in the game.
As the clock ran down, the Owls were able to pull ahead, thanks to clutch efforts from Ives, sophomore guard C.J. Seaforth, and senior forward Joey Wallace, who hit a dagger three with only minutes left. The Owls went on to win 80-75.
“The main factor in the win was just staying together,” said Seaforth. “We all just kept talking, even down by 12, and acted like we’ve been there before. [We] just fought through and came out with the win.”
Seaforth also said the chemistry between his teammates was the only reason he was able to make an impact in the second half.
Along with Ives’s high scoring performance, two other Owls finished in double digits: Seaforth tallied 16 points and two steals on the night, and senior guard Isaiah McLeod, who left the game early due to an on-court injury, grabbed 12 points and two steals as well.
After the game, Seaforth said the team was ecstatic with the win, and was just happy they were able to play in one more game this season.
“Right now, we’re all just happy we came out with the win. Kealan came out and had a great game, got 37. Coach kept telling us to go to him, go to him, so that’s what we did,” said Seaforth.
Even before the semifinals match started, Ives said he knew he was going to have a big game. “I just felt it early. It started early in shoot around,” said Ives. “I came and just shot it from far, and it went all net, and I was like ‘oh yeah,’ and it carried on to the game.”
Looking ahead to the team’s next playoff game in hostile territory against Saint Anselm College which was played on March 3, Burrell said the team should savor the win before getting back to work.
“Number one, let [the team] enjoy this game right now. It’s a huge win, without Isaiah, without Ulyen [Coleman], I mean that’s 40 points on the bench for us right now,” said Burrell. “We let them enjoy it, come back, prepare and watch film, and get our game plan down.”
Southern continued their win streak by upsetting the No. 1 ranked team in the league Saint Anselm on their home court 97-87. Seaforth and Ives lead the Owls scoring, both ending with 25 points. Senior guard Joey Wallace also contributed to the teams success by dropping 19 points, 13 rebounds as well as three assists.
The team, standing one way away from making the conference finals, takes to the road once again to face longtime conference rival and No. 2 seed in the Southwest Division University of New Haven for the semifinals on March 6.
Photo Credit: August Pelliccio