WALTHAM, Mass. – The second season for the Bentley University men's basketball team will begin Friday night when the Falcons host Assumption College in the opening round of the Northeast-10 Conference playoffs. Tip-off at the Dana Center is 7 pm.
Bentley, the only NE-10 program that has qualified for the tournament all 32 years since its inception, is the number eight seed, and Assumption will come to Waltham as the ninth seed. At stake for the winner will be a Sunday afternoon meeting with top-seeded Franklin Pierce up in Rindge, N.H.
This will be the second meeting of the season between the two programs with Bentley having won the first, 60-57 back on Jan. 3. In that one, the Falcons scored only 14 first-half points, nine of those coming in the last four minutes, but erupted for 46 in the second half to claim the victory. Bentley used a late 10-3 run to open a 58-53 lead, but needed two free throws with 6.3 seconds from sophomore guard Jasper Grassa (Lynn/Lynn Classical HS) and a missed Greyhound three at the buzzer to escape with the win.
Bentley enters the conference tournament with the better record, 15-11 overall, but Assumption has had more success of late, winning five of its last six (including three in OT), to even its record at 13-13.
The Falcons have struggled since the win over Assumption, a victory that lifted the team to 10-2 at the time. The opponents have shot at least 40 percent in 12 of the last 14 games after connecting on less than 40 percent nine times during the season's first 12 contests. This year's club is 12-1 when it has the higher field goal percentage but just 3-10 when the opponent has shot better.
Bentley's offensive arsenal features the three-pointer with Grassa and senior guard Sam Leclerc (Fayette, Maine/Winthrop HS) two of the four NE-10 players with at least 70 threes, and the conference's top seven in terms of three-pointers also including freshman forward Andrew Shaw (Saco, Maine/Thornton Academy).
Grassa leads the conference with 80 three-pointers, the fifth highest total ever recorded by a Falcon. Leclerc follows with 70 and Shaw has made 57.
In addition to quantity, all three are amongst the best in the NE-10 in terms of accuracy with Leclerc fourth (.446), Shaw sixth (.438) and Grassa 11th (.412).
Leclerc, also one of the NE-10's best from the line, leads the Falcons in scoring with his 15.4 average a point higher than Grassa. Shaw, who has started the last two games, is also in double figures with a 10.4 average.
Close games have been the modus operandi for Assumption. Nearly half of their wins (6 of 13) have come in overtime and the Greyhounds have had 15 games decided by five or less, or in OT. One of those came on Tuesday when they locked up a playoff bid by using the five-minute extra session to win at American International, 73-68.
Like Bentley, Assumption has three double-figure scorers with the Hound trio of guard Kevin Donahue and forwards Tim Beinert and Ronson Quick having accounted for close to two-thirds of the team's offense.
Donahue, second in the NE-10 in both threes (77) and minutes played (37.8 a game), tops the scoring list with a 16.5 average. Beinert, coming off a 35-point effort at AIC that included 15 of 15 from the line, follows at 15.2 with the conference's fifth-best field goal percentage (.570). Quick, who has started the last five after spending most of the season coming off the bench, has an 11.1 average after putting up 60 points in the last three games.
Ryan Roznanski is the distributor for Assumption with his 212 assists a conference-best.
In the other first-round game Friday night, number seven Pace is hosting New Haven with that winner advancing to play number two Adelphi. The other quarterfinal games on Sunday have sixth-seeded Merrimack visiting third-seeded Stonehill and Southern Connecticut at UMass-Lowell in the 4-5 game.