AWestern New England College nips Nor'easters in overtime in exciting TCCC battle

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – Senior point guard Asif Abdul-Wadud (Springfield, MA) had a second chance at the foul line and came through in the clutch.

Abdul-Wadud, who missed a one-and-one early in overtime, calmly sank two charity shots with 4.7 seconds remaining as the Western New England College men’s basketball team defeated visiting University of New England in The Commonwealth Coast Conference (TCCC) contest 69-67 Saturday afternoon (Feb. 2) at the Alumni Healthful Living Center.

WNEC raised its overall record to 11-8 after winning for the third time in its last four outings. The Golden Bears also moved to 5-2 in the conference. UNE, which entered the contest as conference co-leaders with Roger Williams, are also 11-8 and 5-2 in TCCC.

There were a bunch of top performances by players on both squads in this fast-pached contest.

Senior forward Jim Bayne (Bristol, CT) led the hosts with 16 points while junior forward Kyle Fredette (Wallingford, VT) compiled his fourth consecutive double-double (and ninth of the season) with 15 points and 15 rebounds (which tied his career high). Junior guard Matt Maynard (Paterson, NJ) and sophomore guard Chris DeVine (Wilbraham, MA) each tallied 11 points.

Abdul-Wadud finished with eight points along with six assists, four steals, and three rebounds.

UNE had three players in double figures with junior guard Steve Belmonte (Levittown, NY) pouring in a game high 20 points (16 after intermission). He had four three-pointers in the contest, the last giving the Nor’easters a 66-65 edge with 2:05 left in the extra session.

Fredette followed with a pair of free throws at the 1:39 mark for a 67-66 lead before junior guard Jaykyri Simpson (East Cleburne, TX) sank a free throw to tie the contest with 1:21 remaining.

Both teams committed a turnover in the final minute before WNEC regained possession with an offensive team rebound following a pair of missed shots. Abdul-Wadud then was fouled driving to the basket and swished both shots. UNE moved the ball quickly up court, but Maynard made a key steal in the final second to preserve the win in the first meeting ever between the schools in men’s basketball.

Simpson had an outstanding game posting a double-double of 15 points and 12 rebounds along with seven assists and four steals. Junior guard Johnnie Jefferson (Dallas, TX) turned in a top effort as well with 17 points and five boards.

Western New England College used an 11-0 run in the first half to take a 37-32 lead at the break. The Golden Bears led by nine on three occasions in the second half, the last at 45-36 following a Bayne jumper at the 16:27 mark. The Nor’easters roared back with a 13-2 run to take a 49-47 lead after Belmonte drained a long three with 12:02 left in the game.

WNEC then scored the next seven points for a 54-49 advantage capped by a lay-up from freshman forward Brendan Murphy (West Springfield, MA) at the 10:21 juncture. A jumper by Bayne gave the Golden Bears another five-point edge (60-55) with 4:04 left before UNE came back to tie the game when Belmonte delivered another clutch three-ball with 1:05 remaining.

Western New England College also helped its cause by converting 52.8% of its field goal attempts.