HENNIKER, N.H. -- Fourth-seeded Mitchell College upset top-seeded New England College on a buzzer beater by Matt Finke in overtime, sealing an 87-85 victory Thursday night in the semifinals of the 2019 New England Collegiate Conference Men's Basketball Championship at Bridges Gymnasium.
Thanks to another upset in the night's other semifinals match-up, the Mariners will host sixth-seeded Newbury College in the title game on Saturday, February 23 at 2 p.m. The Nighthawks held on to top second-seeded Eastern Nazarene College by a 74-73 final.
The final moments of overtime provided plenty of drama. After Finke made a pair of clutch free throws to put the Mariners up one with 11 seconds remaining, NEC's Calvin Cheek went coast to coast for a go-ahead lay up to the delight of the home crowd. However, with 2.5 seconds remaining on the clock, Malik Chase had enough time to make an inbounds pass to Finke at midcourt. Finke caught the pass, turned and took one dribble before launching a shot from deep on the left wing. The buzzer sounded after his release, and the shot banked in for the game-winning points, sending the Mariners into wild celebration.
Finke finished with a game- and career-high 22 points that came on 5-for-9 shooting from deep. Hasani Williams added 18 points and 10 rebounds while Steffen Brunson scored 15 points. Chase also had a huge game off the bench, contributing a season-high 13 points that included a pair of big three-pointers in overtime.
The game ended without either Brunson or Domenico Santiago on the floor, as each fouled out early in the extra period. Santiago finished with only six points but grabbed a game-high 14 rebounds.
The Mariners trailed by as many as 13 in the opening half and trailed 39-29 at the break. However, a 7-0 run to start the second half brought the visitors back into the game, and for the rest of regulation it was a back-and-forth affair.
Mitchell will make its second appearance in the NECC finals while playing host for the first time ever. The Mariners' last title game appearance came in 2014 when they defeated top-seeded Elms College by a 72-71 final.