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Men’s Basketball Season Comes to an End

Nwokeji and Co. Not Enough for KSC

By Kam Towle; For The Clock
On March 8, 2016

Men’s Basketball Season Comes to an End

Nwokeji and Co. Not Enough for KSC

Kam Towle
For The Clock
kmt11@plymouth.edu

Sixth-seeded Plymouth State University traveled on the road Tuesday night, February 23rd, to take on the third-seed Keene State in the first round of Little East Conference (LEC) playoffs. Keene State held off a late run by the Panthers and won the game 84-78, ending the Panthers season.

Despite ten points from Junior Curtis Arsenault (Berlin, N.H.) and eight from Junior Ernie Johnson (Springfield, Mass.), the Panthers faced a 39-28 halftime deficit. To start the second half, the momentum swung towards PSU, as they came out firing. The Panthers went on an 11-0 run in the first three and a half minutes to tie the game at 39. The run featured a three-pointer from Johnson, a dunk and a layup by Junior Jack Preston (Nashua, N.H.), and layups by Arsenault and Senior Uche Nwokeji (Lynn, Mass.). However, with about 12 minutes to play, PSU found their intensity slip, as three baskets by the Owl’s Nate Stitchell (Coventry, R.I.) and a layup from Jaquel Edwards (Manchester, Conn.) helped to give Keene State a ten-point lead.

At the 1:53 mark in the second half, after two Stitchell free-throws, the Owls had maintained their lead of ten points, and sat with a score of 79-69. Then, things got interesting. On the next possession, PSU’s Sophomore Brian Boulay (Keene, N.H.) hit a three-point jumper, and the next possession resulted in a Boulay layup, and the score was 79- 74 with 1:24 remaining. After threequick turnovers, PSU’s Johnson hit a clutch three-pointer with 0:43 seconds left. However, 79-77 is the closest the Panthers would get to stealing the game, as the Owls hit the late free-throws they needed to close out the game, with the eventual final score of 84-78.

A highlight for the Panthers’ came from Senior Uche Nwokeji. With 12:20 left in the second half, he hit a short-range jumper that surpassed 1,000 points for his career. PSU’s big man finished his career 26th on the all-time scoring list. He also had his best season yet, setting personal records in points, scoring average, rebounds, assists, blocks, and field goal percentage.

For Keene State, Stitchell led the Owls with 23 points on 8-of-9 shooting from the floor. Edwards chipped in 16 points and 5 rebounds. Senior Matt Ozella (Medway, Mass.) and Freshman Ty Nichols (Springfield, Mass.) each added 11 points.

Preston guided the Panthers with 22 points (20 in the second half), 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks. Johnson and Arsenault each contributed 16 points, with Johnson hitting 4 three-pointers and Arsenault grabbing five rebounds. Nwokeji had a game-high 10 rebounds to go with 7 points and Boulay chipped in with 14 points of his own.

The big-three that was consistent for the Panthers for much of the season led the Panthers in both scoring and rebounding, and that would be Nwokeji, Arsenault, and Preston. Arsenault was the team’s leading scorer with 407 points (15.7 PPG). Nwokeji was right behind him, finishing with 406 points (15.6 PPG), and Preston scored 329 (13.7 PPG). For rebounds, Nwokeji ripped down 228 (8.8 RPG), Preston had 134 (5.6 PPG), and Arsenault brought down 122 (4.7 RPG). PSU will lose Seniors Nwokeji, Dante Ramos (Dartmouth, Mass.), and Zach Stevens (Londonderry, N.H.) to graduation.

Plymouth State finished their season with a record of 15-11, their most wins since the 2009-10 season, and they get to rest their hat on the fact that they more than doubled their win total of last season, finishing with just seven. They also had a programbest eight game win streak to start the season. Keene State (16-10, 9-6 LEC) advanced to the LEC Final Four to face No. 7 Rhode Island College, who was an upset winner over No. 2 University of Southern Maine, 64-63.

Congratulations Uche Nwokeji!
1,003 Career Points
730 Career Rebounds

CLOCK PHOTO/ALEX CROSSLEY

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