BENNINGTON, Vt. – Tuesday night's non-conference men's basketball contest at the Mountaineer Athletic Center saw 22 lead changes, but it would be the final switch that gave hosting Southern Vermont College a 90-89 victory over Fitchburg State University.
Neither side led by more than five at any point of the tilt as play was close from the jump. After the Falcons brought a 42-39 upper hand into the locker room, SVC came back to tie the game or grab the edge multiple occasions throughout the final 20 minutes. FSU consistently had an answer, but the Falcons ran out of time to find a response after Southern Vermont junior Kyle Depollar (Rockville, Md.) knocked down a triple with 1.2 seconds on the clock to put his team in front by one.
The Mountaineers begin the season at 3-0 for the first time since the 2001-02 squad went 5-0 to open up the year. Fitchburg State falls to 0-3 on the campaign.
Southern Vermont is next in action on Saturday when the Mountaineers visit Castleton University for a 1 p.m. inner-state showdown. FSU looks ahead to a Tuesday, November 28 road game at Elms College with tip-off against the Blazers slated for 8 p.m.
SVC senior Claude Payne (South Plainfield, N.J.) registered a team-high 22 points on the night—that being the most for his career in the Mountaineer uniform; he also had seven rebounds in the win. Classmate Mike Pierre (Melrose, N.Y.) followed with 17 points and six boards as sophomore Tyler McLeod (Auburn, N.Y.) notched 16 points and 10 rebounds for his second double-double of the year in 26 minutes off the bench. Senior Daemond Carter (Forestville, Md.) had 14 points—all of those coming in the second half—as Depollar finished with 10.
Fitchburg State junior Jerrell Gomes (Providence, R.I.) led all players with 26 points as classmate Jonathan Perez (Lowell, Mass.) tallied 20 in 31 minutes of reserve time. Junior Brandon Harris (San Bernardino, Calif.) registered 12 points and a team-leading six rebounds, and classmate Brandon Guerrero (Corona, Calif.) had 10 points in the effort.
The Falcons shot a solid 53.3 percent (33-62) from the floor including a 10-25 (40 percent) clip from downtown. SVC wasn't far behind at 40 percent (28-70) from field goal range with a 7-23 (30.4 percent) showing from three, but the Mountaineers' 27-32 (84.4 percent) performance at the free throw line was a huge factor late in the game. Southern Vermont owned the glass with a 46-26 advantage in rebounds—its 23-8 upper hand on the offensive boards leading to the hosts outscoring FSU 21-9 in second-chance points.
Payne scored the first four points of the night with two coming on a put-back slam for Southern Vermont to take the early lead, but the Falcons answered with a 12-4 run—sparked by a pair of Gomes threes—to go on top. Payne continued his strong first half with five unanswered of his own for SVC to regain the edge, and play never stopped going back-and-forth.
Perez drilled back-to-back treys for his team to take a five-point lead midway through the first, but Southern Vermont would inch back and finally pull ahead at 28-27 on a Depollar connection from beyond the arc. Scoring was traded down the stretch before Payne hit a pair of free throws to tie it at 39-39 with 42 seconds left in the period—only to see Gomes knock down another deep shot for Fitchburg State to bring a three-point lead into the locker room.
SVC jumped right back on top in the onset of the second half as Carter was a smooth 4-4 from the charity stripe while his team went up 45-42. Free throws were traded before a Perez triple was immediately matched by one from Carter on the ensuing trip down the floor as neither side could maintain the lead. A Harris 3-pointer helped Fitchburg State make it a two-possession game with 10:43 left to go, and Guerrero would soon-after knock down a pair of freebies to extend the lead to five.
The Mountaineers continued to push, however, with Carter dropping his second from downtown before he swiped it away from the Falcons, drew the foul, and hit both of his free throws for Southern Vermont to go in front 68-67. FSU would take to an 8-3 spurt behind a Guerrero deep ball for the momentum to swing back to the visitors, and they were able to stay ahead over the next 3:28. Finally, McLeod tied it at 82-82 with a pair of baskets from the charity stripe—setting up a thrilling last few minutes.
After Perez dropped a three, SVC scored the next four points to go up by one. Perez followed an errant shot from the outside and put back his own rebound for the 87-86 upper hand, and Pierre then went 1-2 from the line to tie it once again. Gomes connected at the other end for an 89-87 lead with 12 seconds left to go—forcing Southern Vermont to use a timeout and draw up its final possession.
Depollar took the ball at the top of the arc with time expiring, set up, and launched an open look that caught nothing-but-net as the buzzer went off. The officials converged and decided that the clock should have been stopped with 1.2 ticks left; without a timeout to use, Fitchburg State was forced to send a long pass down the court to no avail as neither side could corral it for the horn to sound and give SVC the triumphant victory.
– #LetsGoSVC –