February 25, 2011


“Murray Center Miracle” Lifts RIC to Fifth Straight
Little East Tournament Championship Game
Anchormen End Keene State’s Season for Fourth Time in Five Years

Providence, R.I.-Senior guard Antone Gray (Providence, R.I.) scored seven of his 22 points in the second overtime as top-seeded Rhode Island College held off upset-minded fourth-seed Keene State College in dramatic fashion, 102-92, this evening in the semifinal round of the 2011 Little East Men’s Basketball Tournament played at The Murray Center. The Anchormen clamped down on the defensive end and did not allow the Owls to score over the final five minutes.


Rhode Island College (18-7) advances to the Championship Game tomorrow afternoon at 5 p.m. and will take on third-seeded Eastern Connecticut (18-8), which upset second-seeded Western Connecticut (21-5), 94-70, in the other semifinal matchup. It is the fifth consecutive season RIC will play for the tournament title.


The Anchormen eliminate Keene State from the Little East Tournament for the fourth time in the last five years and notch their 11th win in the two club’s last 12 meetings.



 Senior guard Antone Gray


Gray connected on a three-pointer from the top of the arc to crack the scoring column in the second overtime period and gave the Anchormen an advantage they would never relinquish. Classmate forward Darius Debnam (Dorchester, Mass.) stole the in-bound pass following the Gray trifecta and earned a trip to the foul line. Debnam made the front-end of the foul shot, but the host’s corralled the offensive rebound.


Rhode Island College dominated the offensive glass, extending the possession on three missed field goals before senior swingman Carl Lee (Warwick, R.I.) made the back-end of a pair of free throws. The Anchormen, who sit atop the conference standings in field goal defense, were able to string together four defensive stands down the stretch. Gray rewarded Rhode Island College’s defensive prowess by sealing the epic victory from the charity stripe with a four-for-four showing.


Keene State (17-10) appeared to have the contest won in the first extra session, holding a four-point advantage with just 38 seconds remaining. Junior forward Ollie Hunter (Bedford, N.H.) provided the offensive spark in the extra frame with five of his 11 points. Gray sank a pair of free throws to whittle the Anchormen’s deficit to one possession, 91-89, with 31 seconds on the clock. The Owls were only able to make one of two attempts to give the Anchormen an opportunity on their final possession.



 Junior center Mike Akinrola


Gray attempted to send the contest into a second overtime with a three-pointer from the right wing, but sophomore guard Ethan Gaye (Providence, R.I.) soared for the offensive rebound and drew a foul. Despite missing both attempts from the charity stripe, junior center Mike Akinrola (Woonsocket, R.I.) grabbed the offensive board and connected on the game-tying, fall away three-pointer with just 1.6 seconds remaining.


Keene State used its own dramatics to force overtime. Akinrola knocked down a trey to give Rhode Island College a seven-point advantage with just 83 seconds remaining in regulation. Junior forward Derek D’Amours (Agawam, Mass.) sandwiched a layup between a pair of free throws from Nicco DeMasco (Richmond, N.H.) and classmate guard Anthony Mariano (Naugatuck, Conn.) to cut the deficit to one with eight seconds left.


Rhode Island College senior guard Nick Manson (Newport, R.I.) converted on each of his free throws to extend the hosts’ lead to three. The Anchormen fouled Mariano to prevent against the game-tying three-pointer, but the tactic back-fired. After making his first attempt, Mariano purposely missed off the left-side of the rim, and sophomore forward Rashad Wright (Agawam, Mass.) collected the offensive rebound and put-back the bunny attempt from the left block.


Rhode Island College featured a well-balanced attack as five student-athletes reached double figures in scoring. Akinrola registered his second double-double—23 points and 13 rebounds—on the campaign to pace the hosts, while Lee also attained the feat with 15 points and 12 boards. Gray turned in a solid effort with 22 points and handed out seven assists. The front-court duo of junior forward Mason Choice (Newport, R.I.) and freshman center Ashton Watkins (Providence, R.I.) rounded out the Anchormen contingent with 15 and 11 points, respectively.


Keene State was led by the two-prong attack of D’Amours and sophomore guard Ryan Martin (Wayne, Maine). The one-two scoring punch combined for 49 points with D’Amours leading all scorers with 28. Mariano and Hunter each registered 11 points.


Rhode Island College held a decisive advantage on the glass (62-49), including a plus-nine (24-15) on the offensive end. The Anchormen also had the edge in field goal percentage (40.7-38.7), assists (16-10), and steals (7-3).


“I'll coach for the rest of my life and never be a part of another game like that,” RIC Head Coach Bob Walsh said afterwards. “Our kids showed an incredible amount of mental toughness and guts to be able to find a way to win.”