CASTLETON, Vt. – Castleton University clinched the second seed in next week's North Atlantic Conference Tournament despite losing to Johnson State Saturday afternoon, 75-63, in the regular season finale for both men's basketball teams at Glenbrook Gym.
Casey Belade earned a career-high scoring total for the second straight game, shooting 7-of-13 from the field as he collected a team-high 16 points, plus he pulled down five rebounds and earned two steals. Chad Copeland finished with 11 points and six rebounds, and Edmund Fitzgerald led the Spartans by grabbing 10 rebounds during the game.
Johnson State (11-14, 8-10 NAC) jumped out to a 16-4 lead in the first seven-and-a-half minutes, but the Spartans battled back, scoring eight unanswered points over the next four-and-a-half minutes to close their deficit to four. The Badgers pulled away again thanks to a 12-2 scoring run, capped by a three-pointer from Benjamin Holl, but Belade answered with his own three-pointer and Copeland followed with a layup to make the score 28-19 in Johnson State's favor at halftime.
The Badgers put together an 11-4 scoring run over a five-minute span early in the second half, with Kawaun Chavis scoring eight of those points, to extend their lead back to 14 at 39-25. A three-pointer by Belade with seven minutes remaining in regulation closed the Spartan deficit to seven at 47-40, but once again Johnson State pulled away, eventually taking a 65-49 advantage with 1:36 remaining in the second half on a steal and layup by Holl.
Chavis hit five three-pointers and went 11-of-12 from the free throw line to lead everyone with 30 points, while Jeyquan Johnson collected 12 points, five rebounds, and six assists, and Holl added 11 points and five rebounds. As a team, Johnson State shot 37.5 percent (21-of-56) from the field, including 9-of-31 from behind the three-point line, and 80 percent (24-of-30) from the free throw line.
The Spartans shot 40.6 percent (28-of-69) from the field, but only 4-of-21 from behind the three-point line and 3-of-10 from the free throw line. Castleton won the rebounding battle, 45-36, including 16 offensive rebounds that led to 18 second-chance points.
Despite the loss, Castleton was able to secure the second seed in the conference tournament next week, prevailing over Thomas College in a tiebreaker (better record over Lyndon State and Maine-Farmington, tied for fourth place). The Spartans, along with top seed Husson, receive a bye into the semifinals, which will take place next weekend in Bangor, Maine.
Castleton (16-8, 11-7 NAC) will await the winner of Tuesday's quarterfinal game between third seed Thomas and sixth seed Colby-Sawyer, with the semifinal taking place Friday, Feb. 24, at 1 p.m. at Husson University.