Leicester, Mass. --- Jerome Cohen (Boston, Mass.) scored 19 points and pulled down 11 rebounds to lead Becker to the New England Collegiate Conference Men's Basketball Tournament Championship on Saturday afternoon at the Leicester Gym, defeating Elms by a score of 66-45 in the finals. It is the first NECC conference championship for the Hawks of Becker. It was the fourth consecutive season the NECC Championship would come down to a battle between Becker and Elms, with the Blazers taking all three of those previous contests. Becker qualifies for the NCAA Championship Tournament with a 23-4 record. Elms falls to 17-10 on the season.
After giving up an opening 3-pointer, Becker held Elms scoreless on their next six possessions. The game was extremely physical in the opening minutes, with neither team giving up easy baskets. The Hawks finally found daybreak, using a 7-0 run to take a 15-6 lead with 12:10 left in the opening half, capped off by a 3-pointer from Terrance Favors (Boston, Mass.). The Hawks led by as much as 11, a plateau reached first on pair of Favors' free throws and later hit again on a jumper by Rajai Leggett (New Haven, Conn.) with the scoreboard showing 21-10 and with 7:34 remaining in the period. The Blazers would rally, cutting the lead to two after a 3-pointer by Daniel Gonzalez (East Windsor, Conn.) with 22 seconds left. With exactly two seconds left before halftime, Becker inbounded the ball and Cohen buried a huge three at the buzzer, and the Hawks went into halftime with a 30-25 advantage. Andre French (Torrington, Conn.) of the Blazers led all scorers at the end of the half with 11 points. 3-point shooting was critical in keeping Elms in the game in the opening period as the Blazers shot 4-of-8 from behind the arc. The Becker defense held Elms to 11.7 percent shooting on the inside, however, giving the Hawks the edge.
Becker scored the first five points of the second half including a big layup from Cohen to take a 10-point lead. Shrugging off the adversity of the opening period, the Hawks went up 14 on a mid-range jumper by Chris Canady (Newark, N.J.). Cohen completed a 16-3 Becker run to start the second with a short jumper with 10:26 as the hosts went up 46-28. The highlight came with 8:16 left in the game when Leggett pulled down the defensive rebound, beating the press with a pass to Canady who found Cohen streaking to the basket for a fast-break layup to put the Hawks up 20, and the Leicester Gym erupted. Becker went up 62-39 when Favors, playing in his final home game at the Leicester Gym, went to the free throw line with 1:26 left and buried two free throws. As he was subbed out, the Becker faithful gave him a rousing ovation. Donovin Ford-Hayes (Windsor Locks, Conn.) put the exclamation point on the game with 39 seconds left when he took a pass from Tyler Roberson (Irvington, N.J.) and slammed it down as the Hawks went up by 23. Moments later, Becker would be celebrating on the court.
Favors finished with a game-high 20 points for the Hawks along with five rebounds and two steals, shooting 3-of-4 from 3-point range. He became Becker's third all-time leading scorer early in the first period, with 1629 points in his storied career. Cohen was a beast inside, shooting 8-of-14 from the floor and piling up a career-high five blocks with two steals, anchoring the Hawk defense. Leggett continued his outstanding play of late with his second straight double-double, scoring 18 points and hauling in ten boards. Canady was a demon on the defensive end, coming away with four steals. Yahmad Rountree (Waterbury, Conn.) added five rebounds and two blocks off the bench.
French and Gonzalez each led the Blazers with 13 points and six rebounds. Kenneth Lockett (Atlanta, Ga.) added ten points with four boards.
In a postgame ceremony, Jerome Cohen was named MVP of the NECC tournament, averaging 15.5 points on 56 percent shooting with 11.5 rebounds and 3.5 blocks. Terrance Favors, Andre French and Daniel Gonzalez were all named to the NECC All-Tournament team. Joining them on the team were Tim Young (Brockton, Mass.) of Newbury and Ahmad Charles (Cambridge, Mass.) of Regis.
The NCAA Regionals run from March 1st through the 3rd the location to be determined.
2012 NECC Men's Basketball All-Tournament Team
Jerome Cohen, Becker - MVP
Terrance Favors, Becker
Andre French, Elms
Daniel Gonzalez, Elms
Tim Young, Newbury
Ahmad Charles, Regis