KEENE, N.H. 2/24/06- Tony Barros (Dorchester, Mass.) had 15 points and Amigo Paniagua (Santiago, DR), James Hall (Jacksonville, Fla.), and Rodney Bennett (Boston, Mass.) added 14 points each to lead second seeded UMass-Boston to a 76-70 victory over third seed Rhode Island College in the first of two Little East Conference menís basketball tournament games played Friday night at Keene Stateís Spaulding Gym.


UMass-Boston (17-10) advances to the finals for the first time since the 1996-97 season.  It will play the winner of the Keene State-UMass-Dartmouth game in Saturdayís Championship game. RIC (17-9) will now await a possible ECAC Tournament berth.


The Anchormen used an 11-1 spurt midway in the first half to go up by 12 (35-23) on a lay-up by Kamari Williams (Springfield, Mass.) at the 3:09 mark.  The Beacons came back to score the last six points of the half to cut RICís halftime lead to 35-32.  Tirrell Hill (Bronx, N.Y.) had eight first half points for RIC while Paniagua countered with eight points for UMB.


The Anchormen scored the first 10 points of the second half to go up 45-32 on a three-pointer by Brian Stanko (Swansea, Mass.) at the 17:54 mark.  But the game would come down to the wire.


UMB took its first lead of the second half (66-65) on a floater by Eric Bateman (Glassboro, N.J.) at the 4:09 mark.  With seconds left on the shot clock, Kevin Payette (Woonsocket, R.I.) hit a lay-up to give RIC back the lead (67-66).  Rodney Bennett (Boston, Mass.) hit a pair of free throws to put UMB back on top 68-67. On their next possession, Paniagua hit a lay-up to give the Beacons a three-point lead (70-67) with 44 seconds left.  Paniagua was fouled on the play, but missed the free throw. UMB regained possession  off the rebound, and A.J. Titus (Roxbury, Mass.) hit one of two free throws to push UMBís lead to four (71-67) with 40 seconds to go.  Barros stole the ball on the next possession and was fouled.  He made one free throw to make it 72-67. 


Payette hit one of two free throws for RIC to make it a four point game.  But free throws by Barros, Paniagua, and Titus in the closing seconds sealed the win for the Beacons.        


 Payette and Hill finished with 13 points each for RIC.  RIC had A 43-33 advantage on the boards but hit just four of 27 three-point attempts.