Men’s Basketball Clinches First-round Bye in NECC Tournament with 103-86 Senior Day Win Over Wheelock

nate goldsmith shakes a defender on senior day

BENNINGTON, Vt. – Southern Vermont College will be in the New England Collegiate Conference (NECC) men's basketball semifinal round for the third-straight year after the team defeated Wheelock College 103-86 Saturday evening at the Mountaineer Athletic Center.

SVC went on top 50-40 through the opening 20 minutes before closing out the win on Senior Day to secure a first-round bye in the upcoming postseason tournament. That semifinal is slated for 7 p.m. on Thursday, February 23.

With the victory, Southern Vermont improves to 14-9 on the year and 12-2 in league action— now having won its last 12-straight games. Wheelock falls to 10-12 overall and 7-6 against the Conference. SVC has won its last six meetings with the Wildcats and has downed WC in the two sides' last five matchups at the MAC.

The Mountaineers are next in action on Thursday with a 7 p.m. NECC tip-off at Elms College. Wheelock is set to host Becker College on Tuesday for an 8:30 p.m. start.

Before the starting lineups, Southern Vermont recognized and celebrated its five departing seniors: Brandon Casella (Pittsfield, Mass.), Ervin Cook (Germantown, Md.), Nate Goldsmith (Capitol Heights, Md.), Davante Jordan (Great Mills, Md.), and Rayshawn Taylor (Silver Spring, Md.).

Taylor chalked up a team-high 21 points while adding eight rebounds to his line, and Goldsmith had 20 points and a game-best 11 boards for his sixth double-double of the year. Jordan tallied 10 points, five assists and three rebounds as junior Claude Payne (South Plainfield, N.J.) went 8-for-10 from the floor for 19 points; Payne also snagged eight boards in just 20 minutes off the bench.

Each of the Wildcat starters made their way into double figures for points, being led by a game-best 26 from senior Derek Fournier (Johnston, R.I.) who also had a team-leading eight rebounds. Fellow senior Anthony Williams (White Plains, N.Y.) followed with 18 points and seven boards while classmate Nicholas Fenton (East Hartford, Conn.) notched 12 points and a game-high nine assists. Senior Matthew Eason (East Hartford, Conn.) posted 11 points, four rebounds and three assists, and additional senior Devin Brown (Chicago, Ill.) tallied 10 points, four boards and a pair of assists.

SVC connected on 41 of its 72 (56.9 percent) field goal attempts while Wheelock hit on 44.8 percent (30-67) of its shots from the floor. Southern Vermont secured a 41-35 advantage on the glass and outscored the Wildcats 64-32 in points from the paint.

Fournier buried a three from the right corner to get the action started, and he then connected again from the left edge before Brown hit a deep triple to give the visitors a quick 11-4 upper hand. Southern Vermont came back with six unanswered points, using tough interior play to post three hard-nosed layups. Eason continued WC's hot shooting from the outside by getting nothing-but-net from the right edge, and he would then hit another trey to make it a 24-17 Wheelock lead as the Wildcats hit six of their first nine attempts from downtown.

The tables turned as Southern Vermont went on a 12-4 run to take its first lead of the afternoon. Junior Mike Pierre (Melrose, N.Y.) pulled up in the paint and dropped a jumper to get SVC within four, and Taylor would soon-after use a great give-and-go with Pierre to open himself up for a three at the top of the arc which made it a one-point edge. The lead changed six times over the next three minutes as scoring went back-and-forth with neither side able to hold the upper hand.

Southern Vermont seemed to get some momentum going, but Eason knocked home his third triple of the half to tie it at 37-37. The Mountaineers would then grab control, however, as they scored the next eight points with four of the seniors getting in on the action. Goldsmith put down a three with 1:06 on the clock and followed with a layup on SVC's next trip down the floor, only to see Brown drop a layup in the waning seconds to make it a 10-point game at the half.

Wheelock cut it to five once play resumed, but a Taylor trey sparked a 13-0 Mountaineer run during which he added another five points while Cook connected on a three-pointer of his own. Fournier took an Eason pass and ended that SVC run with another downtown bucket, but the hosts would slowly increase their advantage over the 20-point margin as the Mountaineers put the win in sight.

A pair of Taylor free throws were followed by a Cook layup which made it an 84-61 game, and Southern Vermont was then able to individually substitute each of its seniors out to a standing ovation during the final minutes of their last regular season home game. Wheelock tried to get back in it with a 9-2 spurt, but a Payne slam off a Taylor dish signified the eventual outcome.

Play got heated between the two sides late in the game with a flagrant foul on Wheelock sending SVC sophomore Kyle Depollar (Rockville, Md.) to the line for a pair of freebies; he would connect on both to send the Mountaineers into triple digits for the first time all season— putting it away for the hosts.