Squad Earns 71-70 Win Over Merrimack; Williams Tallies Career-High 32 Points
With the win, the River Hawks improve to 6-2 overall with a 4-2 mark in conference action and Merrimack falls to 6-3 on the year with a 2-3 clip in NE-10 play.
“We were very sluggish offensively and Merrimack gets all the credit for that, but once again, our defense kept us in it,” said Head Coach Greg Herenda. “And what can you say about Akeem Williams? Thirty plus points in his eighth college basketball game.”
Williams scored an even 16 points in both halves and finished the game with two rebounds, four assists and a pair of steals. He went 10-22 from the floor including 5-8 from long range.
The Warriors picked up a four-point lead to start the game, as the River Hawks trailed 6-2. The squad pulled within one, down 8-7, before going on a 21-6 run over the next 6:30, to go ahead 28-14 over Merrimack.
The stretch was highlighted by seven points apiece from Williams and sophomore Matt Welch (Lowell, Mass.), who finished the game with nine points in front of his hometown crowd.
Merrimack fought back, though, going on a 16-1 run of its own to pull ahead 30-29 before a buzzer-beating, long-range three from Williams brought his River Hawks ahead by two entering the break.
In the second, the Warriors pulled ahead by as many as six with 5:22 remaining in the game, as they shot 48.6% (17-35) in the second stanza. The River Hawks would not be discouraged, and stuck with Merrimack as the clock wound down.
Junior John Corbacio (Stoney Creek, Ont.) nailed a three with 3:23 left in the game to bring the River Hawks back within one (62-61) and freshman Nomso Emetarom (Framingham, Mass.) knotted the game at 62 all with a free throw with just under three minutes to go.
The teams traded clutch shots down the stretch, and it was Merrimack’s Darin Mency with 1:04 to go, that made a layup to put the Warriors on top by three at 70-67. Williams kept his calm, though, sinking a pair of free throws with 30 seconds left to make it a one-point ballgame.
In the final seconds of the contest, Welch grabbed the rebound of a missed Mency free throw with 12 seconds left and shot a jumper just to the left of the basket, where Bivins was waiting to tip in the ball and give UMass Lowell the 71-70 lead they would hold onto for the final second to secure their sixth victory of the year.
“I think it’s a credit to Antonio Bivins and the rest of our players to play through to the buzzer. We talk about every second of every possession every day and Antonio didn’t stop playing,” said Herenda. “We were lucky, but in order to be lucky, you have to be good and work hard. There were points in that game where we could have just given up.”
The River Hawk bench outscored Merrimack’s 21-7, highlighted by nine points from Welch and eight from Bivins. The squad also collected eight steals, while Merrimack did not make one in the game.
Sophomore Romeo Diaz (Methuen, Mass.) almost recorded a double-double, as he added 12 points and grabbed nine rebounds in the win. He dished three assists and added both a block an a steal, as well.
Freshman Darrell Ward (White Plains, N.Y.) tallied six points and grabbed eight rebounds, while junior Robbie Walton (South Boston, Mass.) had seven rebounds in the victory.
Merrimack was led offensively by a Mency double-double (28 points, 11 rebounds) and a near-double-double by Wayne Mack, who chipped in 14 points and grabbed nine assists.
“To win in that fashion, in this arena, with that kind of atmosphere, was great,” Herenda said. “I like to dream and our team likes to dream and I’d like to come back here and play more games here.”
The River Hawks return to Costello Gymnasium on Saturday, Dec. 18 for a non-conference game against Concordia at 3:00 p.m. for their second to last contest of 2010.