CHICOPEE, Mass. – Elms College junior guard Andre French (Torrington, Conn.) led all scorers with 20 points and the Blazers were a perfect 17 of 17 from the free throw line to help secure a 61-53 victory over Wheelock College in Saturday afternoon's New England Collegiate Conference (NECC) men's basketball game at Picknelly Arena.
With the win, Elms improves to 16-9 overall, 11-5 in NECC action and has earned a first round bye in the NECC Championship tournament. Wheelock moves to 12-13 on the season, 10-6 in league action and awaits the tournament pairings. The quarterfinal round is set for Tuesday, Feb. 21.
Both teams were stellar from the floor as Wheelock shot 36.4-percent, while Elms shot 36.2-percent. The Wildcats were also sharp from the stripe hitting on 11 of 13 free throws (84.6-percent).
French helped pace the Blazers to a perfect showing from the free throw line hitting on all eight of his attempts en route to his game-high 20 points. Junior guard Charles Bason (Riverdale, Md.) finished with 11 points, while senior guard Bryant Corcoran (Waterbury, Conn.) notched the only double-double of the game with 10 points and a game-best 11 rebounds.
Max Kaim (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) led Wheelock with 15 points and has now eclipsed the 1,000-point mark for his career. Bashir Hudson (Jamaica Plain, Mass.) and Eric Rice (Woburn, Mass.) added 11 points each in the loss, while Kyle Pierce (Burlington, Mass.) chipped in eight points.
Hudson added four blocked shots, while Rice hauled in a team-best seven rebounds.
Leading 33-23 at intermission, Elms scored the first four points of the second half on a layup by sophomore forward Isaiah Odulami (Providence, R.I.) and a pair of free throws by French before Wheelock exploded for 11 unanswered points , including nine by Kaim, to pull the Wildcats to within three at 37-34 with 14:21 to play in the game.
A three-point play by French with 10:52 on the clock extend the Blazers' lead back to seven, before Wheelock responded with another run – this time a 7-0 run – to knot the game at 43-43 with 7:17 remaining in regulation.
A fast break-layup and the ensuing free throw by Bason following a foul by Wheelock started a 10-1 rally by Elms to set the score at 53-44 at the 2:15 mark.
The Wildcats kept it close as Rice delivered a layup with 1:01 remaining to cut the gap to four (55-51) but junior forwards Carson Miller (New Oxford, Pa.), and David McDaniel (Plainfield, N.J.) each converted two free throws, and French added two from the stripe to help Elms pull away to a 61-53 win.
McDaniel finished with six points, while Miller and Odunlami added four points each in the winning effort.