AURORA, N.Y. – Sparked by 24 points by freshman Rich Ross (Bronx, N.Y.), the Wells College men's basketball team turned aside the Wildcats from the SUNY Polytechnic Institute by a 77-66 final score on Saturday. Wells moves to 12-12 overall on the year and to 10-7 within the North Eastern Athletic Conference while the Wildcats drop to 13-12 (12-5 NEAC).
With the victory, Wells has secured a berth in the upcoming NEAC Men's Basketball Tournament for the first time since the 2012-13 season. The Express entered this afternoon's game tied in the conference standings with Cazenovia (9-7 against NEAC opponents), but even if the Wildcats defeat Gallaudet on Sunday and move to 10-7, the Express hold the head-to-head advantage against Cazenovia.
Ross was 14-for-15 from the foul line, scoring a total of 24 points to lead all Wells players. Junior Chris Courtney (Auburn, N.Y.) scored 19 points for the Express, adding a team-leading five steals, while classmate Vaughndell Brantley (Syracuse, N.Y.) finished with 13 points for Wells, dishing out five assists.
Back-to-back three-point baskets by Courtney and senior Jordan Bishop (Arlington, Texas) created an 11-5 lead for Wells only 4:16 into the contest. The Express used a trey from freshman Tyree Fisher (Henrietta, N.Y.) to stake his team to a 21-13 lead with 10:46 remaining in the first half, a lead of eight points for the hosts.
Quayshaun Mitchell poured home a triple with 5:58 remaining in the first half, cutting the Express lead to 26-24 down the stretch. Eventually, a Michael Boyea layup tied the score at 33, but a layup from sophomore MJ Williams (Tampa, Fla.) put the Express up by a 33-31 score. Both teams traded free throws down the stretch as Wells went into the locker room ahead by a 36-34 score.
SUNY Poly came out of halftime on fire, outscoring Wells by a 9-3 margin to capture a 43-39 lead with 16:29 left in regulation. The Express, however, came from behind by using a Courtney three-pointer to spark a 14-to-4 run. Wells, who led by a 53-47 margin with 9:16 left, held SUNY Poly off in the waning minutes and used back-to-back free throw makes by freshman David Dames (Manhattan, N.Y.) to take the 77-66 lead.
The Wildcats, using only seven players in the tilt, shot only 31.3% in the second half after making half of its shots (10-for-20) in the opening stanza. Mitchell led the Wildcats with 23 points while Tyler Taverne scored 15, followed by Malik Johnson with 10. Mitchell also led his team with 14 rebounds.
Wells seniors Bishop and Nate Mitchell (Madison, N.Y.) were honored for their contributions to the program with a pre-game ceremony on Senior Day.
Wells will await official word from the North Eastern Athletic Conference regarding its next opponent in the upcoming postseason. Any information will immediately be posted on the Wells College Athletics website.