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Hounds storm back for OT victory.

Byline: Jennifer Toland

COLUMN: NCAA DIVISION 2 NORTHEAST REGIONAL

WALTHAM - Assumption players watched and waited, and watched and waited some more as yesterday's first NCAA Division 2 Northeast Regional quarterfinal between Saint Rose and Philadelphia went into four overtimes.

Once they took the floor, it was going to take something for Assumption and opponent Holy Family to top that game in excitement, but in Greyhounds' fans minds, their team pulled it off. No. 2-seed Assumption came back from 18 points down to defeat the No. 7 Tigers, 74-66, in overtime. The Hounds were cheered on by a large student contingent - two busloads full - at Bentley College's Dana Center.

"It was definitely a fun game to play in," said Assumption senior Corey Diethorn, who scored a team-high 22 points. "That's what we did the whole time - played hard and had fun." Assumption (23-10) will face third-seeded Saint Rose, which prevailed over Philadelphia, 85-75, in today's Northeast Regional semifinal at 5 p.m. The Hounds lost to Saint Rose (23-7) during the regular season, but dominated the Golden Knights in a 72-44 win in the Northeast-10 Conference tournament.

Yesterday's game marked the fifth time this season Assumption has rallied from a double-digit deficit to win.

"It says we're a very mental team," said junior guard Courtland Bluford, who scored a career-high 21 points. "Most teams probably would have given up mentally (after falling behind by 18). Coach (Serge DeBari) always tells us to stay mentally focused. As long as we stay mentally focused and we still execute our plays and still play defense, that's what gets us back in the game."

The Hounds led by five points with 41 seconds to play in regulation, but Holy Family senior star Michael Sturns scored five straight points with a pair of free throws and a 3-point bomb with 1.1 seconds left to send the game to OT.

The Tigers, however, didn't take the momentum to the extra session as it was all Assumption in overtime. The Hounds outscored Holy Family, 12-4, as junior swingman Patrick Shea hit his second key 3-pointer of the game, Bluford drove in for a pretty layup and Diethorn came down with four rebounds to provide some of the OT highlights.

"It could have been a repeat of the game before ours," Bluford said. "We didn't want that."

Diethorn added 13 rebounds for his 12th double-double of the year. Shea also pulled down 13 rebounds and senior Greg Twomey added 11 points. Freshman guard Dominique Price had a nice game off the bench with 4 points, 4 rebounds, an assist and a steal and gave the Hounds some spark in the first half.

Sturns, who led Division 2 in scoring (26.5 ppg), got his 28 points, but Assumption limited him to 3 of 15 from the field in the second half. The Hounds held Holy Family to 35 percent shooting and won the rebound battle, 57-48.

"At the end of the game, it was all about defense," DeBari said. "It was a defensive win."

Senior guard Ryan Lancaster added 22 points for the Tigers, who were the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference tourney runner-up.

Holy Family, making its first NCAA appearance, jumped on the Hounds early, taking a 22-8 lead 10 minutes in.

Assumption was getting its looks, but missed its first seven field-goal attempts. Sturns made back-to-back 3-pointers and Lancaster buried a jumper to put the Tigers up, 32-14, with 6:32 left in the first half. Assumption senior forward Mike Foti's 3-pointer started the Hounds on a 17-4 run to finish the first half. Diethorn and Bluford combined to score 10 straight points to finish the half and Assumption was within 36-31 at the break.

"Even though they were going ahead, we were contesting them defensively," DeBari said. "They're just very talented. We were just hoping we wouldn't fall that far behind that we couldn't make it up. (Down 18), we were teetering on the edge. Finally we got something going and we didn't lose sight of how to get back in the game."

The Hounds continued to play hard at the defensive end and their efforts led to a vital 14-0 run early in the second half. Bluford's lay-in started the spurt, Shea's 3-pointer tied the score and freshman Mike Baldarelli's 3 gave AC its first lead, 47-44, with 13:27 to play. At the end of the run, Assumption was up, 51-44. The Hounds held Holy Family scoreless for six minutes.

"That's a mental thing," Bluford said of the key run. "We started out flat. We came in over-amped and that didn't work to our benefit. Once we calmed down, we started playing our game again. That's when the week of practices and going over film kicked in and we became very effective."

NAME: ASSUMPTION COLLEGE
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Title Annotation:SPORTS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Mar 16, 2008
Words:801
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