MORRISVILLE, N.Y. – Junior Jonathan Hurtado (Brooklyn, N.Y.) scored 25 points and chipped in 11 rebounds as the Wells College men's basketball team posted an 82-61 victory against the Nittany Lions of Penn St.-Berks in the North Eastern Athletic Conference semifinal game Saturday afternoon on the campus of Morrisville State College. The victory moves the Express to 13-13 overall while the Nittany Lions see their season come to a close with a 13-12 overall record.
With the victory, the Express will play in their fourth NEAC championship game in only their fifth season as a program. The Express last claimed a conference championship on Feb. 27, 2011 as they edged the Nittany Lions of Penn St.-Harrisburg by a 75-72 overtime victory. They will face-off against the top-seeded Morrisville State College at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday – the Mustangs are the reigning conference champions. The winner of Sunday's game earns an automatic bid to the NCAA Division III men's basketball tournament.
Junior E.J. Taylor (Tampa Bay, Fla.) finished behind Hurtado, posting 19 total points while tying with his classmate with four steals. Taylor, who poured home four three-point field goals, also chipped in with two assists. Sophomore J.J. Walton (Ocala, Fla.) finished with 15 points, shooting 7-of-9 from the field while posting seven rebounds. Junior Al Paul (Elmont, N.Y.) rounded out the double-digit point scorers for Wells, tallying 11 points.
Express led from start to finish in the game, opening up an 8-1 run capped off by a Hurtado layup with 16:23 remaining in the first half. The Express began to distance themselves from the Nittany Lions near the midpoint of the opening stanza as Taylor bombed two three-point baskets within 25 seconds of each other, setting the score at 27-14 in favor of Wells with 10:10 remaining in the first.
In the first half's waning minutes, Taylor and Hurtado hit back-to-back threes near the six minute mark to increase the Wells lead to 14 points. Despite a miniature rally by the Nittany Lions, Walton's layup with 1:19 remaining in the first half increased the lead to 43-33 heading into the locker room. Wells outscored the Nittany Lions by a 24-to-6 margin within the paint in the first half alone.
A three-pointer by Taylor to open the second half increased the Wells lead to 13 with 19:07 remaining in regulation time. Connor Hough posted two layups for the Nittany Lions near the 15 minute mark, cutting the Wells lead to single digits at 51-44. However, the Express used one large burst of scoring to place themselves comfortably ahead. The next seven points of the game were scored by Wells, capped off with a Paul layup with 12:01 remaining to create a 14 point cushion.
Tom Smith led the way for Penn St.-Berks, pouring in 12 points for the Nittany Lions. Dontez Reid also scored 12 points for the Nittany Lions, tying with Smith for the team lead. Dameon Nixon recorded a double-double, scoring 10 points and 10 rebounds while posting five assists.
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