Newton, Mass. – The frontcourt tandem of freshman Shontaey Lovell (Brooklyn, N.Y.) and sophomore Jaqhawn Walters (Hartford, Conn.) each recorded double-doubles to lead the No. 3 seed Albertus Magnus College men's basketball team past No. 2 seed Lasell, 87-80, on Thursday evening in the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) Tournament Semifinals inside Athletic Center Gym.
With their sixth straight victory, the Falcons improve to 20-5 on the year and advance to Saturday's conference championship, while the Lasers see their season come to an end with an 18-9 mark. AMC is in search of its fifth consecutive conference crown and has won 14 straight GNAC Tournament games.
In just 20 minutes of action, Lovell registered his league-leading 16th double-double of the winter courtesy of a 22-point, 12-rebound effort. He knocked down 7-of-9 shots from the field and canned all eight of his free-throw attempts for the guests. Walters played the entire contest for the Falcons, scoring 21, grabbing a game-high 18 boards and dishing out six assists. Walters hit eight shots from the field to go along with two steals and a block on the defensive end.
Albertus Magnus blew open a close game in the second half, shooting 45 percent from the field and getting 16 points in the paint from Walters and Lovell. The Falcons used a 15-3 run midway through the second stanza capped by a layup from Lovell to stretch their lead to 18 at 66-48.
With AMC is some foul trouble, Lasell cut the deficit to just four at 75-71 with two and a half minutes left in regulation following a pair of free throws from senior forward Logan Liberty. Over the final minute of regulation, Albertus Magnus hit its free-throw shots, scoring its final nine points from the charity stripe to stave off the late Laser rally.
After the opening minutes of the first half, the Falcons led throughout the remainder of the frameand the contest. A trey from Lasell sophomore guard Scott Arsenault gave the hosts a 5-3 edge two and a half minutes into play. Albertus Magnus would respond with an 18-7 spurt capped by a jumper from senior wing Marc Wilson (Jersey City, N.J.) to lead 21-12 with 10:01 left in the half.
Five minutes later, the guests would stretch their advantage to 11 at 30-19 after a layup in transition from Walters. The Lasers would score nine of the next 11 points over a three minute spand to cut the deficit to four at 32-28 after an offensive rebound and putback from senior forward Pat Marchand.
Down the stretch, AMC stretched its lead back to seven at 38-31 following a layup from Walters before Lasell ended the half with four straight points to trail by three at 38-35 heading into the break. During the opening the 20 minutes, Albertus Magnus got to the foul lines 11 times and forced nine Laser turnovers.
Junior guard Grant Ellis (Newark, N.J.) and freshman point guard Ryan Pittman (Stratford, Conn.) both also finished in double figures for the guests, pouring in 14 and 10, respectively. Ellis got 12 of his points in the fist half and ended the tilt by knocking down all five of his attempts from the free-throw line. Pittman continues to mature in the Falcon offense, adding two rebounds, two assists and two steals while playing all 40 minutes.
Offensively, junior guard Armin Ovanovic paced the Laser attack with a game-high 27 points on 10-of-25 shooting to go along with four rebounds and five assists. Three other Lasell players scored in double figurs with Robert O'Brien netting 17, while big men Marchand and Liberty poured in 15 and 11, respectively.
Albertus Magnus returns to action on Saturday, February 27, traveling to the Ocean State to square off with top-seeded and nationally-ranked Johnson & Wales in the GNAC Championship. The clash gets underway at 1:00 pm and the winner will earn the league's automatic qualifier for the NCAA Division III Championship Tournament.