QUINCY, Mass.- The fourth-seeded Eastern Nazarene men's basketball team downed fifth-seeded Salve Regina 78-64 in the quarterfinals of the Commonwealth Coast Conference Tournament and the program's first home playoff game in 12 years in front of a packed Lahue Physical Education Center, energized by a rowdy student-section.
The victory propels the Lions to 18-8 overall while the Seahawks end the season with a 13-13 mark.
Eastern Nazarene advances to the Commonwealth Coast Conference semifinals to face top-seeded Curry on the road February 21.
Freshman Jaylen Owens (Johns Creek, Ga.) paced the Lions with 19 points while adding six assists. Senior Chima Ezeigbo (Roanoke, Va.) and rookie Justin Wagner (Oklahoma City, Okla.) each poured in 15 points on the night. Ezeigbo finished with a double-double as he also recorded 17 rebounds.
Junior Brian Hard (Weymouth, Mass.) contributed with 14 points and six boards off the bench. Freshman Jeremy Wagner (Oklahoma City, Okla.) registered six points and six assists while senior Max Barbosa (Dorchester, Mass.) also netted six points on the night.
Eastern Nazarene sprinted to a 10-5 advantage just 3:30 into the contest. The Lions quickly stretched the lead to 12 with 14:37 left to play as Justin Wagner drained one of his three treys in the game, 19-7.
Hard knocked down a triple with 11:53 remaining in the half to widen the margin to 16, 26-10.
Salve Regina sliced the deficit to 10 points with 7:26 left to go as Patrick Dinneen tossed in a lay-up, 28-18.
The Lions responded with a 10-2 run to claim a 38-20 edge with 1:34 remaining. The Seahawks narrowed the gap to 13, 38-25, as Isiah Pringle beat the halftime-buzzer with a three-pointer from the left wing.
Ezeigbo scored a team-high 13 points in the first half while grabbing 10 rebounds. Owens tallied 12 first-half points and dished out three assists. Justin Wagner poured in eight points in the first period.
Eastern Nazarene shot 46.9% from the field in the opening frame and 30.0% from three-point range. Salve Regina connected on 32.3% of its shot attempts in the first half and went 2-for-9 from beyond the arc.
The visitors cut the deficit to nine with 15:25 remaining in the contest as Eric MacKinnon drained a trey, 43-34.
The Lions pushed the lead to 19 points with 11:42 left to play on a triple by Mike McCoy (Altamonte Springs, Fla.), 56-37.
The Seahawks chipped away at the margin to pull to within nine with 4:22 on the clock, 62-53, as Dinneen banked in a fast-break lay-up.
The home team's final 14 points came from the charity stripe as Eastern Nazarene finished the game with 19 made free throws on 23 attempts. The Lions shot 47.2% from the floor and 45.0% from downtown in the win. Salve Regina was held to 35.4% shooting from the field, including 8-for-29 from long distance.