Rider overcomes Mount with second-half surge Down 12, Broncs gain NEC semifinal, 80-77

March 01, 1997|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

LAWRENCEVILLE, N.J. -- Pity the Mount St. Mary's-Rider series has to end.

The latest edition was another down-to-the wire thriller, as the Broncs knocked the Mount out of the Northeast Conference tournament with an 80-77 victory before 1,650 rabid fans last night.

With Rider moving to the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference next season, one of the NEC's best rivalries will be history, but the Broncs supplied a final punctuation mark.

They rallied from 12 points behind in the final 13 1/2 minutes and from five behind in the final 1: 24 to break a three-game Mount winning streak at the "Broncs Zoo."

"We did a fabulous job of getting the right guys with the right shots at the right moments," said Rider coach Kevin Bannon.

Fourth-seeded Rider (14-13) advances to Monday's semifinal at top-seeded Long Island University. The Mount (14-13) goes home.

"Our season was great in that we snapped back from a terrible middle portion of the year," said Mount coach Jim Phelan, whose team had won nine of its previous 11 games. "But we let this one get away. We played solidly for a long time, then didn't make the plays at the end."

"That is a team with a bright future," Bannon said of the Mount. "A lot of talent and composure and a lot of coaching as usual. To me, Jim is one of the classiest men in the profession. It's about time people realize he is a Hall of Fame coach."

The Mount led 77-72 on Silas Cheung's fourth three-pointer of the game before freshman Ken Lacey (18 points) turned a strong rebound into a conventional three-point play.

Tony Hayden traveled with the ball on the next Mount possession and then Kevin Finefrock drilled a three-pointer with 22 seconds remaining to give Rider its first lead (78-77) since the final seconds of the first half.

"Our guys did the job, keeping our composure and battling back," Finefrock said. "It was a matter of keeping things in perspective and valuing each possession."

In the final seconds, Cheung missed a left-handed scoop shot and Hayden failed on a three-pointer and the Broncs put it away with two free throws.

Rider has no seniors on its roster and played the entire season without center Kevin McPeek (injury) and Charles Smith (disciplinary action).

But last night it got plenty of aid from its free throws, making 19 of 25 to the Mount's three of four to overcome a season-high 12 three-pointers by Phelan's team.

"We hung in there enough to have a chance," Bannon said. "And in the last five minutes we were very tough on both ends."

In his final Mount game, Cheung topped the team with 20 points as the bench (Cheung, Gerben Van Dorpe and Hayden) outscored the starters, 46-31.

Pub Date: 3/01/97

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