NCAA Tournament: Scott Eatherton leads Northeastern to near upset of Notre Dame

 

Scott Eatherton will try to lead Northeastern to the NCAAs. OBW Photo / Sam Perkins
Scott Eatherton will try to lead Northeastern to the NCAAs. OBW Photo / Sam Perkins

PITTSBURGH – Scott Eatherton’s last game in a Northeastern jersey ended in a loss, but true Huskies’ fans will forever remember his team’s effort in their second round matchup against third-seed Notre Dame.

‘They left it out on the floor as you would expect in this type of venue, in this type of environment,” coach Bill Coen said after the 69-65 loss. “I just couldn’t be more proud of this group of young men.”

Punch after punch from the Fighting Irish, the Huskies rebounded right up until the final buzzer of the 69-65 game.

In fact, Northeastern dominated Notre Dame on the boards 33-17. But 16 turnovers, compared to Notre Dame’s 7, cost the Huskies when it mattered most.

Eatherton gave the Huskies hope when he tipped in a Walker 3-pointer miss with 33 seconds left to go.

Notre Dame’s Pat Connaughton, a Mass-native, didn’t help the cause when he turned over the ball on a homerun attempt on the next inbounds pass.

Stahl came up with the steal, and without timeouts, Northeastern had one more shot to either tie or win.

The Huskies ran a play to get Walker open beyond the arc for the win, but Notre Dame closed in and he swung the ball right to Ford.

Ford dribbled around a Stahl screen but was stripped by perennial guard Jerian Grant. Two free throws on the other end by Zach Auguste (25 points, 5 rebounds) ended the game and Northeastern’s season.

“We gave a great effort,” said Eatherton. “I don’t think that last play is what cost us the game.

“…There was a lot of turnovers, we just fell asleep on some of their actions that we walked through.”

Eatherton fought through foul trouble throughout the game and brought the Huskies on the verge of an old fashion March upset. But he wasn’t alone.

Sophomore point guard T.J. Williams scored seven points and gathered five rebounds after registering no points in the first half. David Walker had 15 points and four rebounds and Ford has nine points with five rebounds.

Senior, co-captain Reggie Spencer gave Northeastern a huge lift off the bench with 8 points on 3 of 4 shooting.

“He’s one of my better friends on the team,” Eatherton said. “I’m sure we’ll be friends for awhile. I’ve never met somebody from Alabama before so I’m sure I’ll always remember him.

“He’s been a great teammate and a great captain.”

Spencer told One-Bid Wonders earlier in the season that his relationship with Eatherton grew after last year’s disappointing season.

The two made a goal to rebound and they succeeded.

The Huskies won a CAA championship and put the dogs from Huntington Avenue in the national spotlight.

And even as he sat at the post-game podium moments after the loss, Eatherton acknowledged that.

“I’ve had a great season,” Eatherton said. “Got to play under coach Coen, got to play with Davie and some great players and I watched them win a [regular season] championship my first year and this year we did too and we almost had an upset so it’s been a great year and a great career.”

Max Plansky — The heart behind Northeastern

Born with cerebral palsy, Max Plansky (center) has been the heart behind Northeastern's run to the NCAA Tournament. Photo Credit: CAA Athletics
Born with cerebral palsy, Max Plansky (center) has been the heart behind Northeastern’s run to the NCAA Tournament. Photo Credit: CAA Athletics

If anyone had full confidence the Huskies would win the CAA championship, it was Max Plansky.

Plansky, 16, of Danvers Mass., has been a consistent source of inspiration for Northeastern since signing a national letter of intent in 2013 through Team IMPACT, a program aimed at improving the quality of life for children facing life-threatening and chronic illnesses.

Plansky has attended every Northeastern practice and home game, even on school days, during his time with the Huskies.

Because his severe cerebral palsy limits his traveling abilities, away games are usually dubious. But Plansky, who long ago predicted Northeastern’s deep run, deserved to be with his teammates when it counted.

“We got to get ready for March,” Plansky told his speech specialist earlier in the season.

Once his father, Michael Plansky, heard the message, he made his son a promise: If Northeastern made the championship round of the CAA tournament, they would find a way to get down to Baltimore.

With the help of the Northeastern coaching staff, Michael would reunite his son with his teammates in the championship, which evidently reunited Northeastern with the NCAA tournament.

The Plan

Even before the early wakeup and the long, uncomfortable drive, Plansky had already provided a spark for Northeastern.

Before the start of the tournament, coach Bill Coen reached out to various alumni of Northeastern basketball requesting they send in a video-recorded bit of advice.

The video included Matt Janning, Chaisson Allen and NBA champion J.J. Barea, all saying what it would take to win a CAA championship. But the message that sent the Huskies’ locker room into a frenzy?

An image of Max Plansky using his computerized speaking device, to say, “Northeastern basketball, I love you guys. I’ll see you at the championship.”

The Huskies were so moved by their teammate’s message, they replied to his recording with their own video.

But getting Plansky to Baltimore is easier said than done.

While the Huskies were resting after a hard-fought win against UNC-Wilmington in the semis, Plansky and his father were waking up at 6 am on Monday morning for a 7-hour trip to Baltimore.

A 7-hour drive isn’t easy for any 16-year-old but not stretching out of his wheelchair for that long would be strenuous for Plansky.

“He just gutted it out,” said Michael. “He was just so excited about it. Every game is like Christmas for him.”

Upon arriving, Michael learned that the family’s parking had already been taken care of at the Royal Farms Arena. In fact, coach Dave McLaughlin was standing in the parking lot waiting for them when they arrived.

The Northeastern assistant coach got credentials for Plansky and his family too – but did it without telling any of the other players.

So when Plansky wheeled into the Northeastern locker room before tip-off of the championship, it gave a tense locker room a pre-game celebration.

“They were doing there pregame stretches and then suddenly it’s ‘Max is here! Max is here,” Michael said.

Plansky stayed in the locker room for pre-game and would return for halftime. Before the game, while Coen went over the game plan with his players, Michael said the coach regular would stop and ask Max if he approved.

“They include him in the true sense of including,” Michael said.

Contagious growth

Plansky has a usual spot during Husky games: at the end of the bench, to the right of personal trainer Art Horne.

It would be no different for the CAA championship. Plansky took ownership of his spot and his role of being positive from start to finish.

“He’s so happy to be there,” said Michael. “It doesn’t matter if things going are good, bad or whatever, he’s got a positive attitude.”

He wasn’t always like that. When Michael, a former player at Fairfield, left a career in coaching, he said Plansky struggled to control his emotions and would have bursts of frustration.

But ever since a Northeastern loss to Harvard earlier this season, he’s noticed a calmer, cooler and collected Plansky.

“That’s 180 degrees from what he used to be,” Michael said.

The growth of his son influenced Michael to found “You’re With Us,” a program aimed at connecting able-bodied college groups with disabled young adults.

If he needs any evidence for how affective the collaboration can be, he only needed turn to the end of Northeastern’s bench during the championship game.

Even when Marcus Thornton and Daniel Dixon led a late rally, cutting the Huskies’ once 20-point lead to single digits, Plansky remained unnerved.

And when the final buzzer sounded and the celebration had begun, Plansky’s teammates made sure he was in the middle of it all.

The 16-year-old was at the center of every victory picture and his team made sure to cut a piece of net just for him.

“He’s been an inspiration to these guys and really a source of compassion,” Coen said in the championship post-game presser. “…I’m so proud of the way our team has accepted him, embraced him and made him feel welcome and special and in return these guys get so much more.”

And Plansky is proud as well. When asked what gives him the most joy about being on the team, he said, “Just being around the guys.”

“It’s just special,” Michael said. “I don’t think I can put a different word on it. That’s become his identity, to remain rock solid. And I can’t see how that doesn’t rub off on other people.”

Seven questions with Max Plansky: Northeastern’s unsung hero

1. Has it hit you yet that your a member of the first championship team for Northeastern since 1991? It hasn’t hit me yet.

2. What does that mean to you?
I am happy for the guys and the coaches and all of their hard work.

3. What was your favorite moment from Monday?
Being part of the post game celebration.

4. In what area have you changed or grown the most since joining Northeastern?
Trying to remain positive no matter what happens.

5. Who would you rather play in the NCAA tournament.. Kentucky, Kansas or Maryland?
Maryland, but don’t let them know.

6. What about attending practices and games gives you the most joy?
Just being around the guys.

7. Any teammates you’re specifically proud of after this season?
All of them.

Cor: An earlier version of this story referred to Michael Plansky’s father as Tim. His name is Michael.

Northeastern basketball’s T.J. Williams and the father who spurred his success

TJwilliams4

The sun has barely been up in Texas and T.J. Williams is already at work – but not on a basketball court. That comes later, when most of his peers are just getting out of bed.

Williams wakes up at 6:30 am to bike down to the Villages of Hidden Lake. He needs ample time to circle the lake twice, a 3-and-a-half mile distance.

On a good day, the future point guard for 14-seed Northeastern basketball, will then ride the hills, pumping on his pedals until he feels his calves burn.

Then it’s time to hit the court. Williams will be early for his team’s morning practice and the last to leave practice after school but he likes it that way.

It’s all he’s known since the third grade.

“You always want to be the first person in the gym and the last person to leave the gym,” says Williams, a sophomore whose Huskies will take on three-seed Notre Dame in the NCAA Tournament second round on Thursday, looking back on the training regiment of his childhood. “I know that I would always be the last one to leave.”

When all of his teammates have left, one person joins Williams in the gym. Tim Williams can’t always make it with work but he has been his son’s most consistent coach.

When Williams got his first letter of interest from a college – in eighth grade – his father kept him humble by making him practice twice as hard.

“When I realized he was going to be pretty good, I started working him out every weekend and I would take him to the gym after I got work,” Tim says.

Every day wasn’t easy for the father and son but even when his son lashed out, Tim knew his son would one day understand.

He knew that his son had the potential to be a starting point guard at a Division I school.

SACRIFICE NOW

Tim Williams’ passion has always been basketball but the Louisiana native got his college opportunity on the baseball diamond. After playing at Houston-Tillotson, Tim spent about five years playing in professional softball tournaments.

He still thinks that with the right mentor, his path could have led to a parquet court.

“Had I had somebody to push me, to give me that extra push, there’s no telling where I could have been,” Tim says. “Since I didn’t have that, I wanted to make sure I didn’t shortchange my son.”

Tim saw the signs of potential when his son was assigned to play with fourth graders as a third grader. From there on most vacations were spent traveling as far as San Diego – anything to get Williams into the best basketball camps possible. Weekends were spent in 24-hour fitness.

“Everyday was not a good day between T.J. and myself,” Tim reflects. “There was days he didn’t want to go and he didn’t understand why I was pushing him so hard.”

When Williams’ middle school friends invited him to sleep-overs, he had to decline because he risked missing a morning workout.

“It was very hard,” says Williams. “I didn’t understand some of the things that I was doing was going to get me to where I would want to be later on in life.

“…I was living the basketball life at a young age and it felt like a job to me almost but I didn’t really realize it at the time.”

One might think the pressure would relent when Williams got a letter of interest from Texas A&M in the eighth grade. But Tim knew the letters would stop coming for his undersized son if he let up.

In fact, high school meant it was time for Williams to clamp down more – even if it meant distancing himself from childhood friends.

“There are going to be some people that you’re going to be dealing with and if you’re going to reach the next level, you’re going to have to distance yourself from them,” Tim told his son in high school. “There are things that they’re doing and you’re doing that aren’t the same.

“Your common going and their common going is not the same.”

Soon, T.J. Williams was waking up in the morning to workout by himself. He implemented the hills and the bike riding into the workouts without his father.

Williams’ peak physical condition led to success on the court.

After an injury-plagued junior year, Williams averaged 17 points per game on 48-percent shooting and led Pflugerville to a district championship.

But college is a whole different ball game.

tjwilliams2

UNCOMMON GROWTH

Northeastern Coach Bill Coen says there are three sides to a basketball player’s transition from high school to college; the new home, the added mental load and the higher level of weight training and conditioning.

Williams was more than ready on the latter of the three. After starting high school at 5-foot-6, the point guard entered Northeastern at 6-foot-3 and 203 pounds.

“He got his body up on his own by going to the gym and lifting weights so that when he stepped on to Northeastern’s campus, he didn’t look like the same T.J.,” Tim says.

It didn’t take long for Williams to make his presence known in his freshman campaign. After scoring 10 points in a nationally televised 63-56 win against basketball power Georgetown, the guard was promoted to the starting lineup.

“His entire freshman campaign built to his last six weeks where he really, in that point in time, got comfortable with himself, got comfortable with his teammates, got comfortable with the system and got comfortable with the level,” says Coen.

Williams ended the year with averages of 6.9 points and 2.3 rebounds per game, sufficient enough to earn him a spot on the CAA All-Rookie Team.

The award was a sign that his childhood training — that would make many high school athletes shudder — was for good reason.

When the 2014 season ended, Williams was faced with a decision: go home to see his hometown friends or stay on-campus to workout with the team.

He knew the jump from freshman to sophomore year is crucial for a basketball player. But the lure of seeing your family and high school friends could change any 20-year-old’s mind. As always, his father pushed him to take his training up a notch.

“Some of those same people you went to high school with, they won’t even be a part of your life once you grow up,” Tim says referring to their talk in the summer. “You’re going to lose people along the way. I don’t need you to come home this summer. Stay up there, get an education and work on your game and that’s going to benefit you more.”

It has clearly paid dividends.

Williams finished second on the team in assists (3.2 apg), while averaging 9.7 points, shooting .457 from the field and .346 from behind the arc.

While most of his high school friends were partying on New Year’s Eve, Williams scored a career-high 20 points and had six assists and six rebounds against Richmond.

The performance was enough to get him CAA Player of the Week honors.

“There’s been some great point guards out there from J.J. Barea to Chaisson Allen to Jon Lee and those guys, all different styles, but they all took command of the game,” Coen says of the torch that has been passed down from recent Northeastern point guards. “I think TJ is just taking that edge where when you watch the game, you begin to notice him more.”

Coen and Williams credit part of his growth to the summer workouts. His effort in the off-season even caught the attention of an “old” Northeastern star.

“The way he makes plays for his teammates and gets them shots and he doesn’t give up on the defensive end as well,” says former Husky Joel Smith, now with the Mexican team Ultimas Noticias. “He’s got a big heart for the game and just goes after it.”

But Williams also credits his father’s constant pressure and guidance.

“I can look back and say that’s why I did that because this is why I’m here — I put in all that extra time,” Williams says.

Like any father, Tim is extremely proud of his son’s early success but it didn’t take a Player of the Week award to make that happen. He could sense his son’s growth when T.J. called him in the summer and told him thank you.

“The thing that I’m most proud of is that even when he didn’t believe what I was putting him through was for a reason, I’m most proud of that I had an opportunity for him to tell me he understands,” Tim says of his son. “Everything I was trying to tell him, he understands.”

According to Tim, the extra time on the court was never about the game.

“He’s playing basketball and that’s important right now,” Tim says. “But I want him to be a good person that’s playing basketball rather than a person who’s playing basketball that’s not a good person.”

tjwilliams3

Photographs by Sam Perkins

If you enjoyed this story visit our features section for more compelling pieces on the inspiring players who suit up out of the limelight in the shadows of mid-major basketball.

Four McGlynn reportedly to leave Towson basketball

Almost as soon as Towson basketball’s season stopped – a 74-69 loss to Elon in the play-in game of the CAA tournament — world began to spread like wild fire that Tigers’ sharpshooter Four McGlynn was on the move.

As first reported by Alex Kline of The Recruit Scoop, and subsequently confirmed by several sources and reporters around the basketball stratosphere (not to mention retweeted by the Twitter account associated with the York Ballers AAU program run by McGlynn’s father), McGlynn, a red-shirt junior, will graduate in the spring and ask for his release to transfer elsewhere as a grad student.

This will be the second time in three calendar years that the York, Pa. Native and the Tigers leading scorer over the past season at 12 points per game, has transferred out of a program.

As a true freshman, McGlynn filled the role of deadeye sniper and instant offense off the bench for America East tournament champion Vermont, averaging 12 points per game while hitting 38 percent of his 3-pointers and just under 90 percent of his free-throws, to help lead the Catamounts to the 2012 NCAA Tournament, and a “First Four” win over Lamar. Almost as soon as he returned home after the end of the school year, McGlynn stunned teammates by announcing he would transfer.

At the time of his release from Vermont, McGlynn cited homesickness and the distance away from his large, close family, and eventually committed to play for Pat Skerry at Towson.

After sitting out the 2012-2013 season due to the NCAA’s mandatory redshirt year for transfers, McGlynn came off the bench to average 9.2 points per game while hitting 40.8 percent of his 3-points and 91.3 percent of his free throws for a 25-11 squad that finished second in the CAA before advancing to the CIT tournament quarterfinals.

With the graduation of several impact upperclassmen, McGlynn was expected to shoulder more of a scoring load for the Tigers as a redshirt junior, and, despite moving between the starting lineup and the bench and back, paced the team at 12 points per game, while knocking down 37.4 percent of his 3-pointers and a career-best 91.7 percent from the charity stripe.

But the Tigers struggled and now, McGlynn, is apparently out the door.

Several analysts have already mentioned McGlynn as an attractive “one-and-done” graduate transfer (NCAA rules would allow him to play immediately as a graduate student), and his ability to fill it up from behind the arc would certainly make him a viable specialist for a school at a step up from the CAA level (maybe even more).

But the issue is whether that is a role that McGlynn would embrace. When McGlynn left Vermont, the murmur around the America East conference was that he was not happy about his playing time coming off the bench as a role player, and similar speculation followed him during much of his career at Towson.

As a one year transfer learning a new system, especially one with limited foot speed and run-and-jump athleticism, it’s hard to see McGlynn playing a larger role than a microwave player providing long range shooting off the bench.

If McGlynn is looking to go somewhere to win, and willing to embrace a supporting role, he’ll have a lot of choices. If he’s looking to go somewhere and be “the man”, he’s going to be left with very limited offers from lower-tier low-major programs.

Powered by Quincy Ford, Northeastern punches ticket to NCAA Tournament

Northeastern punched its ticket to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1991. Photo Credit: CAA Athletics
Northeastern punched its ticket to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1991. Photo Credit: CAA Athletics

BALTIMORE, MD – It didn’t take long for Quincy Ford to find his mother after winning the CAA championship.

The red-shirt junior weaved through the crowd of championship shirts, finding Denise Ford just in front of a pep band blasting victorious anthems.

As the mother and son embraced, the emotions that come with giving a school that hasn’t been to the NCAA tournament since 1991 a bid finally began to hit.

“All the sacrifices she made, just reminds me of the staff, the teammates and all the sacrifices they made,” Ford said after the 72-61 win over William & Mary on Monday. “It was just a great feeling to see her and celebrate with her, as well as the team.”

Ford recorded 22 points on 8-of-10 shooting and four rebounds and in the process, earned the CAA tournament Most Outstanding Player award.

The forward got off to a great start, scoring 15 points in the first half (including 3 of 3 shooting from beyond) and the Huskies went into the break up by 10.

He picked up right where he left off in the second half, nailing his first long range attempt.
Northeastern led William & Mary by as much as 22 in the second half and weathered a late surge led by Daniel Dixon to hold on to the win.

“The X factor was our energy, our togetherness,” coach Bill Coen said. “These guys were on a mission this week.”

Even though Ford was the game’s most outstanding player, players throughout the roster contributed to the win.

Caleb Donnelly, a former Northeastern club basketball standout, had another fine shooting performance, nailing 4-of-6 three-pointers. The undersized Zach Stahl had 10 rebounds to lead the game. Senior captain Scott Eatherton dominated inside with 15 points.

And then there was David Walker, a CAA all-tournament team member, who needed to play well with his fellow guard TJ Williams slowed down by the stomach flu.

Walker had 15 points and four assists, two years after losing in the CAA championship to James Madison.

“I can’t even put it into words,” Walker said as he reflected on the journey. “The emotions after that game, especially for the seniors there in Jon [Lee] and Joel [Smith], I feel like we let them down the most.

“This just goes down in the history and they’re a part of it.”

In fact, Coen made them a part of it. Leading up to the tournament, Coen reached out to former Northeastern players – Matt Janning, J.J. Barea and Chaisson Allen to name a few – and asked them to record video clips saying what it would take to win a championship.

“It had a huge impact because these guys realize they’re a part of something that’s much bigger than this year, much bigger than this team,” Coen said. “They’re part of a program, they’re a part of an outstanding academic University.”

And now every member of that program – the players, the alumni and parents like Denise Ford – are headed to the NCAA tournament.

“We’re going to be ready,” Eatherton said. “We know the season is not over and we’re obviously not going to be picked to be favorites but we don’t want to the season to end so we’re going to work hard all week.”

Daniel Dixon 3-pointer sends William & Mary basketball to finals after 2OT thriller

Daniel Dixon's corner 3-pointer was the difference in William & Mary's double-overtime win over Hofstra in the CAA Tournament Semifinals. Photo Credit: William & Mary Athletics
Daniel Dixon’s corner 3-pointer was the difference in William & Mary’s double-overtime win over Hofstra in the CAA Tournament Semifinals. Photo Credit: William & Mary Athletics

Marcus Thornton and Omar Prewitt each had two of the best individual performances in CAA tournament history on Sunday, but it was selflessness that sent William & Mary basketball on to the CAA championship tomorrow against Northeastern with a 92-91 double-overtime win against Hofstra.

After Hofstra’s Moussa Kone pushed the Pride’s lead to 91-89 with a made free throw, Thornton the ball up the court with eight seconds on the clock in double overtime.

Thornton dribbled left into a Hofstra double team and elevated to make the winner, the same shot he missed last year in the CAA championship loss against Delaware.

Then, just as he hit the peak in his jump, the senior whipped the ball left to a wide-open Daniel Dixon for a corner three.

“That’s what great players do – when you need them, they’re there,” Shaver said. “It’s a big step for Marcus, trusting his teammates.”

While Thornton was on his way to scoring 37 points, a CAA tournament all-time best, and Omar Prewitt torched for 33 points, Dixon had fallen behind the scenes in the game.

The game-winning shot was only his second field goal of six attempts on the day.

“I just tried to stay up the whole time for my teammates and be a defensive threat,” Dixon said. “I knew Marcus and Omar were going off so I really trusted them and they basically won us the game.”

Dixon is still recovering from a hamstring injury that sat him out five games towards the end of the season. A double overtime game featuring nine ties and 12 lead changes doesn’t exactly help but the guard persevered.

“What a big play for Daniel Dixon, my gosh, he played on one leg,” Shaver said. “He’s playing on pure guts right now.”

It helps when you have two record-breaking teammates to pick up the slack.

Thornton and Prewitt became the first teammates to record 30-plus points in the same CAA tournament game.

“We’re a team, like I’ve said all year long, all of our guys contribute,” Thornton said.
The Tribe have to turn around and prepare to play a Northeastern team in less than 24 hours.
If Shaver is wondering how team will recover from the fatigue, he only needs to look to Dixon’s performance.

“He just played on heart today,” Shaver said. “He played on heart and soul.”

Caleb Donnelly ices it for Northeastern men’s basketball

Caleb Donnell
Northeastern walk-on Caleb Donnelly. Courtesy photo / Northeastern Athletics

Before this season, Northeastern men’s basketball walk-on Caleb Donnelly had no idea if he was going to see a minute of playing time for the Huskies.

On Sunday, the red-shirt junior sat at the CAA championship press conference after scoring 11 points off the bench in Northeastern’s 78-71 win against UNC-Wilmington.

“It’s a lot easier to go out there when you know all the guys trust you and everyone’s trusting in each other,” Donnelly said after the semifinal win.

The victory sends the Huskies to the CAA championship for the second time in three years.
Scott Eatherton led Northeastern with 21 points on 7 of 12 shooting and five rebounds but the Huskies advantage came from the subs. Northeastern’s bench outscored UNC-W 33-10.

Devon Begley (11 points, 4 of 4 shooting) and Reggie Spencer (11 points, 4 of 6 shooting) joined Donnelly in double figures.

“[Spencer] could start on most teams in our league,” said Eatherton. “He comes to work every night, just like Caleb. I feel like these guys don’t really feel like they’re coming off the bench.
“It’s like they’ve been playing the whole game.”

Just two years ago, the only games for Donnelly came from pickup games in the Marino Center and club basketball games.

On Sunday, Donnelly was the player at the free throw line when it mattered the most, icing the win for the Huskies by hitting 3 of 4 late game free throws.

After red-shirting last year, the New Hampshire-native fought into Coen’s rotation and has become one of Northeastern’s deadliest shooters. Donnelly led the team by drilling 51 percent of his shots from downtown.

Is Coen surprised? Of course not.

“Nothing he does will ever surprise me because he attacks each and everyday,” Coen said. “He gets more out of a 24-hour day than most people get out of a month.”

The performance came days after Donnelly was named one of two recipients of the CAA Dean Ehlers Award, given to a student-athlete who embodies leadership, integrity, sportsmanship and academic achievement.

“There is no higher honor in this league,” Coen said. “It speaks to character, it speaks to commitment, it speaks to excellence and that’s what Caleb Donnelly is all about.”

Quincy Ford puts on show to power Northeastern into semifinals

Quincy Ford
Quincy Ford. OBW Photo / Sam Perkins

BALTIMORE, MD – A year prior to Northeastern’s 67-64 win over Delaware in the quarterfinals of the 2015 CAA tournament, Quincy Ford was sidelined in a state of “hopelessness.”

Ford, recovering from season-ending back surgery, had to watch his Huskies get beat by the Blue Hens in the semi-final round of the 2014 tournament from the bench.

“It was extremely frustrating to me. I just kind of felt hopeless not being able to help my teammates out,” said Ford, reflecting after his team’s win on Saturday. “But all the more motivation for this year to come out stronger and better for this team.”
It was worth the wait.

Ford put on an all-around show in Baltimore, scoring 16 points on 6 of 10 shooting, including 3 of 5 shooting from behind the arc. The forward only took three minutes to get on the board with an old-fashion 3-point play, giving Northeastern an 8-2 lead.

“There was some jitters in the beginning but by attacking the basket, once the first shot went in, it was game on,” Ford said.

After a Delaware score, Ford came back and nailed a 3-pointer from the right wing. After a Delaware three, Ford hit his second 3-pointer in less than a minute to give the Huskies a 14-7 lead.
By the way Ford balanced scoring and defending Delaware’s best player, freshman guard Kory Holden, it was as if the injury had never happened.

“Quincy’s got the ability to keep guys in front of him and use his length,” Coen said on the forward-guard matchup.

However, Holden kept the game close going into halftime. He had 16 points and Delaware was only down by four going into the break.

Ford, who had 11 at the break, picked up where he left off hitting a 3-pointer less than a minute into the second half. The red-shirt junior was then held without a bucket until the 1:45 mark, when he pushed the lead to 63-60.

But the Florida-native didn’t falter. After all, he got used to relying on his teammates last year.
“Second half, there was a little bit more pressure,” Ford said. “David, who’s a great player stepped up, Zach stepped up, Reggie stepped up, all my teammates stepped up and made plays.

“…I’m a 100 percent team player, all I care about is winning and it was an example tonight,”
David Walker led the Huskies with 17 points, including four late game free throws and a big time rebound, sealing the win.

Walker, a junior, and Ford still have one more year of college eligibility.

But Ford, who entered Northeastern with senior Reggie Spencer, feels the sense of urgency that was missing in 2013.

“This is something we’ve all dreamed of, this is something we’ve worked hard for all summer and the time is now,” Ford said. “We need to get it done.”

Omar Prewitt dunks William & Mary into CAA semifinals

Omar Prewitt powered top-seed William & Mary past Elon and into the CAA Tournament semifinals. Photo Credit: William & Mary athletics
Omar Prewitt powered top-seed William & Mary past Elon and into the CAA Tournament semifinals. Photo Credit: William & Mary athletics

Omar Prewitt says the heartbreak of William & Mary’s loss to Delaware in last year’s CAA championship did not hit him initially.

The sophomore says he looked at the Tribe’s distraught seniors in the locker room after the loss and didn’t understand how much the win would have meant to the only CAA program to never make the NCAA tournament.

After scoring 16 points on 6 of 11 shooting in the Tribe’s 72-59 win over Elon in the second round of the CAA tournament on Saturday, it’s clear he now gets it.

“We can’t be a great team unless Omar plays well,” coach Tony Shaver said. “He’s that important to us.”

Prewitt wasn’t the only member of the Tribe who came to play.

CAA Player of the Year Marcus Thornton led the team in scoring with 17 points and Daniel Dixon contributed 12 points on 4 of 9 shooting from behind the arc.

Defensive Player of the Year Terry Tarpey had another great all around game with eight points, nine rebounds, five assists and three steals.

“We got Terry, we got the MVP on our team but Omar takes us to a new level if he’s playing well,” Shaver said.

Prewitt had struggled at the tail-end of the regular season with a shooting percentage of just 26 percent in the Tribe’s last three games. The last of those three was the 80-66 loss to the Damion Lee-less Drexel Dragons.

“If one of us is off, it really hurts,” Prewitt said. “I wouldn’t say I’m the key factor but if I’m not playing as well, it really hurts our team a lot.”

However, during a stretch in the second half on Saturday, Prewitt was they key for the Tribe.
Elon, down by 13 with just over 14 minutes to play in the half, went with a zone defense in an attempt to stop the hot-shooting Tribe.

Seconds later, Prewitt put his head down and earned a bucket on a hard drive to push the lead to 50-35.

After an Elon score, Prewitt again drove to the basket and scored.

“He was the one player during that stretch when they went zone, who really drove for us and got a couple easy baskets,” Shaver said.

At the nine minute mark, Omar turned a Sean Sheldon steal into a dunk that would have made Avon Barksdale, Stringer Bell and all of the Low Rises shake and crumble.

He’s improved that physical side of his game since his Rookie of the Year campaign last year.
According to his teammates, Prewitt hit the gym this off-season with a determination to get stronger and expand his skill set.

“That helped improve his overall game and his decision making is getting better,” said Tarpey. “It’s just great to have a player like him on your team.”

It is that mental strength that has impressed Thornton the most.

“Each year the game kind of slows down for you a little bit,” Thornton said. “He sees the floor better, sees certain things he wouldn’t of seen last year.

“Just his overall improvement as a player, I’m really proud of him and it’s great to see the way he played today.”

Elijah Bryant, Elon, pound the rock, survive CAA Tournament opening round

Elon freshman Elijah Bryant. Photo credit: Elon Athletics
Elon freshman Elijah Bryant. Photo credit: Elon Athletics

Baltimore, MD — Elijah Bryant wouldn’t let any pregame jitters shake him up in the first CAA tournament game of his career.

Hours after winning the 2015 CAA Rookie of the Year, Bryant scored 21 points on 7-of-16 shooting to lead the No. 8 Phoenix to a 74-69 overtime win over No. 9 Towson under the bright lights of Royal Farms Arena.

“Elijah is big time, man,” said senior point guard Austin Hamilton, who had 12 points and seven assists. “He really got Rookie of the Year for a reason.”

Nobody knows how a freshman will react to playing in the post season, especially when that rookie is going from Elon’s Alumni Gym that sits 1,585 to a arena sitting 14,000.

But instead of hiding his anxiety, Bryant voiced it to his senior leaders in shoot-around and pregame meetings.

“I tried to talk a lot during warm ups and talk a lot to my guys just to calm me down and make it feel more like home,” Bryant said.

The comfort of being at home has been key to Bryant’s success throughout the season. His family, who lives in Georgia, attended every Elon home game this year – and most of his road games.
And his second family made sure he was comfortable on Friday.

“That goes hand-in-hand with Austin [Hamilton], Kevin [Blake], our leaders, and how they’ve created an environment of a family,” said first-year coach Matt Matheny. “That helps you alleviate the stress and I think Elijah relied on that.”

The environment must have been sufficient, as Bryant came out on fire and had 14 points on 5-of-8 shooting in the first half. He was one of only two players to hit double figures in the first half. However, the Phoenix only went into the half up one point.

But a rough season has taught Bryant to continuously “pound the rock” a team phrase meaning to persevere.

“We pound the rock and we also try to do the little things,” said Bryant. “Even if we’re not winning the game, it will build up and ultimately get us a win like this.”

Bryant wasn’t alone in the win. Four other players on the team scored in double figures.
And it was those players, whom Bryant credited for his Rookie of the Year award.

“I just put the award all to my teammates,” said Bryant. “Without them, I couldn’t have done it.”