Mount tops Marist, clinches NEC title 74-64 victory assures home-court tourney edge

February 25, 1996|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

EMMITSBURG -- The road to the Northeast Conference title goes through Emmitsburg this season.

Defending champion Mount St. Mary's guaranteed that last night, clinching the NEC regular-season title with a 74-64 victory over Marist before an announced crowd of 3,196 at Knott Arena.

Monmouth still can tie the Mountaineers (19-6, 15-2) with one game remaining, but Mount St. Mary's wins the tie-breaker by virtue of two conquests of third-place Marist (20-5, 13-4).

The outcome means Mount St. Mary's will be at home for all its tournament appearances. The Mount has won 14 in a row at Knott Arena -- 11 this season.

The crowd was squeezed onto the side courts, the balconies, into the aisles and almost to the rafters.

They saw what they came for, a front-running Mount victory, but the game lacked any drama.

"It wasn't pretty, but it was solid," said winning coach Jim Phelan. "Every time they threatened us, we pulled away."

"What you're seeing is three seniors who have been here before," added point guard Riley Inge. "Chris [McGuthrie], Jeff [Balistrere] and I know what it takes to win close games."

Mount St. Mary's committed only four turnovers -- the same as in an earlier 61-55 win at Marist -- and again offset the Red Foxes' superior power game with speed, quickness and shooting.

"They do everything defensively that we hate to deal with," said Marist coach Dave Magarity. "So, that creates a problem for us getting into the offense."

The Red Foxes did not score in the first 5 1/2 minutes, falling behind 7-0. With the league's best big man, Alan Tomidy, somewhat offset by Gerben Van Dorpe, they could not pick up the difference from their overmatched backcourt.

Marist pulled to within 29-28, then the Mount spurted. It pulled to within 50-46 and the Mount spurted. When Van Dorpe laid in the basket that made it 64-52 on a great feed from Inge, Marist answered with one final run to pull to 64-58.

But McGuthrie (29 points) made five of six free throws.

Phelan said "it is a great feeling" to be at home for the tournament, which is played at campus sites. "They [his team] don't think they can lose here."

"We had to go to Rider to win it last year, but that doesn't happen often," said Inge, who had 11 points and eight assists. "You don't want to go on the road if you don't have to, and now we don't have to."

Mount St. Mary's concludes the regular season at home tomorrow night against Fairleigh Dickinson.

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