By The Beacon Sports Staff
Two weekends ago the SeaWolves basketball teams traveled to Concord, New Hampshire, to participate in the Yankee Small College Conference Elite Eight postseason tournament. This year marked the first time that the name “Elite Eight” presented the tournament a slight challenge, as only six women’s teams were eligible to participate in the tournament.
The four-day tournament traditionally starts on Thursday with the top eight teams in the women’s field pairing off against each other with the first tip-off at 2 p.m.
With only six teams qualifying (teams that suffer a forfeit are ineligible), this year’s tournament got underway with the third through sixth seed teams playing Thursday: New Hampshire Technical Institute taking to the court against University of Maine-Machias at 6 p.m. and SMCC playing Vermont Tech at 8 p.m. The top two seeds, Central Maine Community College and the University of Maine-Augusta, drew first-round byes.
The NHTI Lady Lynx would open the tournament with a 70-54 win over the Clippers of the University of Maine-Machias squad. NHTI would next take to the court against the tournament’s top-seeded and United States Collegiate Athletic Association (USCAA) top-ranked team, CMCC.
The Lady SeaWolves would face Vermont Tech for the third time, beating a Knights team that has shown improvement since their first meeting with SMCC in November. The 53-34 victory earned SMCC a semifinal showdown with UMaine-Augusta, whom they split their regular season games against.
In all four quarters SMCC outscored the Knights, with the second 10 minutes of play seeing the Lady SeaWolves hold Vermont Tech to four points. The ‘Wolves would score 19 in the second, taking a 27-10 lead into halftime.
The second half of the game saw the Knights hang with SMCC, as they practically stayed even in scoring both quarters. SMCC would only outscore the Knights by one in the third and fourth.
Freshman SeaWolf center Amanda Brett finished with 12 points, earning her game high scoring honors. Teammates Jordan Farquharson and Grace Kariotis combined for 20 points (10 each), as each player also connected with two three-point shots.
The Vermont Tech Knights ended their season with an 8-22 overall record.
The men SeaWolves would start their YSCC tournament play on Friday afternoon in the second game of the four scheduled for the day. The first game of the day saw UMaine-Augusta take on CMCC and drop a hard-fought 10-point loss, 92-82, to the Mustangs.
The ‘Wolves would take to the court against a revamped Clipper team that picked up two players over the holiday break. One of the additions is Dante Ramos, who was on the NHTI squad that lost to SMCC a year ago in an amazing YSCC Elite Eight final.
This quarterfinal matchup would prove to be as exciting for its own reasons. The SeaWolves would score the first five points of the game on a Gregory Trinidad three-pointer and a Jacobee Burpee layup.
The Machias Clippers would score the next three points on a Dante Ramos foul shot and an Alexander Blake layup, which was answered by a Ryan Cloutier three-point shot. Cloutier would strike again when he blocked an outlet pass back towards the SeaWolves’ basket, beat two Clippers to the ball and scored on a layup, padding the SeaWolves’ early lead (10-5).
Three-pointers would be the name of the game for the ‘Wolves, as Timothy Dixon, Sean Bowering and Gregory Trinidad would drain three consecutive threes in a row, pushing the Wolves lead to nine. Dixon would score on a layup, padding SMCC’s lead to 11 (21-10). Again, Bowering would drain another three, grabbing a 12-point lead for the Wolves (24-12).
The Clippers would chip away at the ‘Wolves’ lead over the course of the next few minutes, pulling within five (24-19) at the 6:23 mark. The ‘Wolves would outscore the Clippers 14-9 over the course of the final five minutes, walking into halftime with a 38-28 lead.
The first seven minutes of the second half saw the Clippers chip away at the SeaWolves’ lead and pull within three at the 13:27 mark (52-49). A minute later Machias pulled within three again, and then cut the SMCC lead to two on a Dante Ramos free throw.
With the game becoming more intense with each passing minute and the ‘Wolves holding a small lead, Ryan Cloutier made a what-the-heck tip-in off of Tyler Mickle. The Clippers were far from done, though, as back-to-back three-point shots by Alexander Blake and Dante Ramos would give them their first lead of the game, 62-61, with a few seconds south of eight minutes to play.
SMCC freshman guard Jacobee Burpee would drain the next five points, returning the lead to SMCC, 66-62, after which Ryan Cloutier would add the next four points, padding SMCC’s lead to eight again: 70-62.
With four minutes remaining and the Clippers down by five, 72-67, the game would see four lead changes on four possessions before the SeaWolves would grab some breathing space on two Dixon free throws. Again Machias would pull within one, 78-77.
The ‘Wolves would seal a hard-fought win from the foul line when Gregory Trinidad and Jacobee Burpee would find the bottom of the net four consecutive times in a row, giving SMCC an 82-78 win.
Dylan Silvestri would lead SMCC with 17 points, 16 rebounds and four steals; Ryan Cloutier and first-years Gregory Trinidad and Jacobee Burpee would combine for 42.
The Clippers’ Dante Ramos would post a game-high 19 points, while teammate Travonne Thompson would finish with a double-double, 14 points and 20 rebounds.
As posted on the SeaWolves Athletics webpage, Assistant Coach AJ Burton commented, “The first postseason tournament game is always the toughest. Our guys did a great job weathering the storm from start to finish despite foul trouble and losing our leader Dylan in the final couple minutes. We executed the game plan and now look ahead to day two.”
Day 2 for the men would mean a date with top-seeded NHTI; for the women, it would mean a third time around with UMaine-Augusta.
The Lady SeaWolves’ two regular-season games against UMaine-Augusta proved to be highly contested, as both games were determined by six points or less. A win in Concord would guarantee SMCC with a shot at the championship against the winner of the CMCC-NHTI game.
The scenario would not pan out in SMCC’s favor, as the Lady SeaWolves would drop a 13-point loss (65-52) to the Moose.
The Lady SeaWolves would jump out to an 8-2 lead off of the tip, but could not sustain the offensive momentum, as the Moose would grab a three-point lead after 10 minutes of action.
The Moose would commit 21 turnovers, while shooting 52.2 percent from the floor and 41.2 percent from three-point land, bettering SMCC’s point total by three or more in each of the four quarters.
The game remained combative throughout its entirety which led to both teams’ star players — SMCC’s Ramirez and UMA’s LaFountain — having to sit out the remainder of the game after suffering blows to the head in the third quarter.
With three minutes to go in the third quarter, SeaWolves senior Alicia Ruth tried her best to inspire her team to a come-from-behind victory by cutting a 13-point deficit to seven by draining two consecutive threes.
In the end UMA’s Carmen Bragg hit for eight points in the fourth quarter, helping the Moose to win. The Moose would go on to play top ranked CMCC in the championship game, losing by 16 (74-58).
For the men, Day 2 meant a showdown with NHTI, on NHTI’s court.
The SeaWolves played brilliantly in the first half. NHTI would score the first five points of the game on a three-point shot and power dunk, after which the ‘Wolves responded methodically.
After four minute of play, SMCC would pull even at 12 on a Ryan Cloutier three-point jump shot. Again, it was a Cloutier three-pointer that pulled the ‘Wolves within one (18-17), and a Dixon free throw that knotted the score at 18-all.
With a little more than nine minutes left in the game, the ‘Wolves would take the lead on two Tyler Mickle free throws (22-20). NHTI would respond by pulling ahead. At the 5:58 mark, SMCC pulled even on a Silvestri layup, tying the game at 27 apiece.
The next four minutes saw five lead changes and five ties, as both teams responded to whatever the opposition threw at them. The last tie of the half came when SMCC’s freshman Oumar Keita knocked down a jumper to even the score at 37-37 with 1:17 remaining.
The Lynx would end the half with a five-point scoring spurt, grabbing a 42-37 lead.
NHTI would pull ahead at the start of the second half with an eight-point spurt to lead 52-41. The ‘Wolves would fight back to get within five and again NHTI would put together another run, ending SMCC’s dream of an upset.
Ryan Cloutier would lead the ‘Wolves, dropping a game-high 20 points on 4-8 shooting from downtown. Gregory Trinidad contributed for the SeaWolves by posting 15 points on 5-9 shooting.
The Seawolves finished the year at 18-10 overall, while NHTI went on to beat Vermont Tech in the YSCC Championship game.