WILLIMANTIC, Conn. – Tom DeCiantis and Christ Burton powered second-seeded Rhode Island College past third-seeded UMass Dartmouth, 82-69, in the semi-final round of the 2014 Little East Championship tournament Friday evening at the Geissler Gymnasium.
The Anchormen advance to the championship game and look to defend their title against top-seeded Eastern Connecticut State University at 5 p.m. tomorrow afternoon. The Warriors defeated fourth-seeded Western Connecticut State University earlier on Friday evening in the other semi-final matchup, 88-75.
Sophomore Abi Akanni (Fitchburg, Mass.) led the scoring attack for the Corsairs with 17 points, while freshmen Ryan Walsh (N. Dighton, Mass.) and Tucker Bouchard (Kingston, Mass.) contributed 14 and 13, respectively. Sophomore Wale Abraham (Lynn, Mass.) grabbed five boards and turned away five shot attempts.
DeCiantis and Burton each poured in 18 points for the RIC. DeCiantis went four for six from behind the arc and grabbed a game-high ten caroms, while Burton converted 10 of 13 from the line, to go with eight boards and four blocked shots. Guard Michael Palumbo recorded a baker's dozen and center Victor Smith chipped in eleven points.
The Anchormen grabbed an early 11 point lead (16-5) with 15:46 on the clock when Palumbo sank the free throw on the back end of three-point play. Palumbo gave RIC their largest lead of the first half (18) when he dropped in a fast break basket off a feed from DeCiantis with just over a minute before intermission.
In the opening minutes of the second half , the Corsairs made a push as Abraham connected with Bouchard for a layup to cut the deficit down to 11 (44-33). RIC fought of UMass Dartmouth's surge and improved their lead to 20 points when Terrence Tribble converted a layup off a feed from Eric Alleyne with 13:00 left in regulation.
With a tick under five minutes remaining Walsh knocked down a pair of free throws to bring the game back within 11, but the Anchormen remained poised down the stretch and utilized good clock management to secure the victory.
RIC shot 49.0 percent from the floor (25-51) and held a commanding 41 to 24 advantage on the glass, while UMass Dartmouth shot 87 percent from the charity stripe (20-23) and knocked down nine shots from behind the arc.
The Corsairs finished the season with an overall record of 16-11 and went 8-6 in LEC play.