STANDISH, Maine – Senior guard Steve Simonds (Steep Falls, Maine) poured in 38 points, including 11 in overtime, to help lift #4 Saint Joseph's College (13-13, 10-8 GNAC) past fifth-seeded Lasell College (10-16, 9-9 GNAC), 84-77, in a thrilling overtime victory in a Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) Tournament Quarterfinal contest at the Harold Alfond Center on Tuesday night.
The Monks trailed by as many as nine points midway though the second half but rallied with a 13-2 run and held a 66-64 lead after freshman forward Quinn Richardson-Newton (Saco, Maine) converted a traditional three-point play with 56 seconds remaining in regulation. The lead, which was the Monks' first of the second stanza, did not last long as Lasell junior forward Pat Marchand (Coventry, R.I.) netted a layup 19 seconds later to knot the contest at 66-66. Simonds converted a layup on the Monks' following trip down the floor in a play that looked to clinch the victory for the hosts, but Lasers senior guard Jeremy Daniel (Bridgeport, Conn.) was fouled with 0.2 seconds left and proceeded to make both pressure-packed freebies, effectively sending the playoff tilt into overtime.
Saint Joseph's grabbed the first lead of extra play when Simonds made a free throw at the 4:44 mark, but freshman guard Scott Arsenault (Walpole, Mass.) nailed a three-pointer 10 seconds later to lift the Lasers to a 71-69 advantage.
As it played out, the lead would be the Lasers' last of the night, as Richardson-Newton hit a layup with 4:18 left to tie the game and Simonds went on to score six straight points for the Monks, offsetting a Richard O'Brien (Manchester, N.H.) three-pointer and providing the Royal Blue with a 77-74 edge with 2:44 on the OT clock.
Marchand followed with a free throw 24 seconds later to cut the visitors' deficit to 77-75, but Lasell would get no closer to the lead as Saint Joseph's extended the lead to 82-75 with five unanswered points as an Andrew Ruffen (Salem, N.H.) freebie pushed the score beyond the two-possession scenario in favor of the Monks for the first time all night.
Ruffen made one of the biggest plays of the night when he forced a turnover near midcourt with 23 seconds left in OT. The sophomore scrambled for the loose ball, which eventually found the hands of Craig Luschenat (Boston, Mass.), who drove to the bucket and dealt a beautiful pass to Blodgett, who was stationed under the rim and hit the layup to put the Monks up 81-75 with 20 seconds left.
With 10 seconds left, Daniel made an uncontested layup to make it an 82-77 game, but the senior point guard fouled out on the SJC inbounds play, an infraction that sent Simonds to the line and the senior standout made both shots to seal the victory.
With the win, Saint Joseph's advances to the semifinal round of the GNAC Tournament as the Monks will play at top-seeded Albertus Magnus College on Thursday night at 7:00 PM. The Falcons toppled eighth-seeded Suffolk University, 108-82, in other quarterfinal action this evening. The loss signals the end of the 2014-15 season for Lasell College.
For the Monks, Simonds was 14-20 from the field and 4-8 from downtown while grabbing four boards and dealing five assists in the thrilling victory. Senior forward Zach Blodgett (Glenburn, Maine) added 19 points – 12 in the second stanza alone - and seven boards while posting a 7-8 effort from the FT line, Richardson-Newton contributed 10 points and a team-high nine caroms, and Jordan Tripp (Queens, N.Y.) and Jerome Diggs (Washington, D.C.) chipped in with six points apiece.
Marchand paced five Lasers in double digits with 18 points and nine boards while Arsenault netted 15 – including 12 in the second frame, O'Brien added 14, Daniel tallied 13 points and seven caroms, and senior guard Mike Vallone (Wallingford, Conn.) contributed 12 points and seven rebounds in the hard-fought loss.
Overall, Saint Joseph's shot 55.4% (31-56) from the field, 41.7% (5-12) from three-point distance, and 73.9% (17-23) from the free throw line. Lasell countered by shooting 48.1% (26-54) from the floor, 37.1% (13-35) from downtown, and 80% (12-15) from the charity stripe on the evening.
Saint Joseph's held a sizeable 42-24 lead on points in the paint as well as a 32-27 edge in rebounds in the victory.
The outlook was bleak in the early going, as the Lasers opened play with a 12-4 run. Trailing 18-9 after O'Brien netted a three-pointer at the 11:37 mark of the first half, Saint Joseph's the Royal Blue rattled off 12 straight points, including five from Simonds, to claim a 21-18 lead with 6:57 left in the first half.
The lead changed hands three times heading into intermission, with Lasell notching the final strike on an O'Brien three-pointer with 1:02 before the break to left the visitors to a 31-29 edge going into the locker room.
Saint Joseph's College is Maine's only Catholic liberal arts college, providing a supportive, personalized and career-focused education for more than 100 years. From its 430-acre campus on the shores of Sebago Lake, the College offers more than 40 undergraduate programs to a population of approximately 1,000 students. Saint Joseph's College Online provides certificates, undergraduate and advanced degrees for working adults through an online learning program. For more, visit www.sjcme.edu.