NEW LONDON, Conn. – The Mitchell College men's basketball team opened New England Collegiate Conference play with a 91-85 victory over New England College on Saturday afternoon at the Yarnall Athletic Center.
Hasani Williams finished with game highs of 24 points and 15 rebounds to pace the Mariners. Jalen Benson added 21 points, five assists and three blocks while Matt Finke chipped in 13 points and five boards. Malik Chase came off the bench to play a big role late and contributed 11 points and six rebounds.
Four Pilgrims scored in double digits led by 19 points from Jamal Allen. Calvin Cheek had 16 points and four steals while Stephen Fama provided 14 points and eight assists. Errol Crawford rounded out the leading scorers with 10 points.
NEC looked primed to run away with the game early as Crawford scored seven points in the opening three minutes to build a slight edge. Fama then took over from beyond the arc, drilling treys on three straight possessions as the visitors opened up a 20-9 lead. The Pilgrims later took their biggest lead at 25-11 on a three by Michael Tavilla midway through the stanza.
Mitchell closed the gap with a 14-4 run over the next three minutes to stay in the game. The Mariners then kept it close until an 11-2 run in the final stages of the half gave them a 44-42 advantage. However, NEC netted the last five points of the stanza—punctuated a three at the buzzer by Justin Eck—to lead 49-48 at the break.
The second half featured three ties and nine lead changes as the teams continued to play at a frenetic pace. Mitchell trailed 66-61 with 12:35 to go before ripping off seven straight points to snatch the lead away. Three possessions later, Mitchell pulled in front for good on a three-point play by Williams with 9:14 remaining.
A three-pointer by Kareem Octavien cut Mitchell's lead to two with 5:42 to go, but the Mariners responded with six straight points to grab their biggest lead of the day. Included in the run were a pair of buckets by Chase, who scored seven points in the final 4:07.
The Pilgrims got within three in the final minute but never had a chance to tie or take the lead after that point. The Mariners shot 53 percent as a team and held NEC to a 38-percent clip.
Mitchell (4-10 overall, 1-0 NECC) will next play at Becker College on Wednesday, January 15 at 7 p.m. New England College (8-5 overall, 1-1 NECC) will next host Colby Sawyer College on Monday, January 13 at 6 p.m.