BANGOR, Maine – Thomas College held off a second-half rally by Castleton University for a 71-57 victory Friday afternoon in the first semifinal of the North Atlantic Conference Men's Basketball Tournament, hosted by Husson University at Newman Gymnasium.
Both teams started the game by hitting three-pointers, as Ian King and Tondi Mushandu exchanged three-pointers before Thomas made three consecutive long distance baskets to take a 12-3 lead four minutes into the contest. The two teams exchanged points until Chad Copeland hit a three-pointer with 11:29 left in the first half to cut the Castleton deficit to four at 18-14.
Thomas went on a 9-0 scoring run over the next six-and-a-half minutes to extend its advantage to 27-14, led by five points from Willie Grant. Castleton three-pointers by Edmund Fitzgerald, Ben Mrowka, and Casey Belade closed the Terrier lead to nine late in the first half, but a three-pointer by Tailour Hall in the final seconds gave Thomas a 37-25 lead heading into the locker room at halftime.
Zach Mackinnon hit consecutive three-pointers at the start of the second half to extend the Terrier lead to 18 at 43-25. Jordan Derosby hit a layup with 15:17 remaining in the second half to give Thomas its biggest lead of the game at 52-32.
Castleton started its comeback with a 12-0 run over the next five minutes, capped by a three-pointer from Mrowka halfway through the second half to close the Spartan deficit to 52-44. After Mackinnon hit another three-pointer, the Spartans rattled off six straight points, all scored by Jordan Nelson, to cut the Terrier lead to 55-50 with 6:48 left in the second half.
The two teams exchanged baskets for the next four minutes, and then Thomas put the game away by scoring the final eight points of the contest, led by Tyheem Simon with five of those points.
Mackinnon hit five three-pointers to lead Thomas with 15 points, with King scoring 14 points and Simon contributing 11 points and seven rebounds. As a team, the Terriers shot 48.1 percent (26-of-54) from the field, including 11-of-22 from behind the three-point line, and 53.3 percent (8-of-15) from the free throw line.
Copeland notched a double-double, leading the Spartans with 14 points and 13 rebounds, while Mushandu scored 13 points. Castleton shot 33.9 percent (19-of-56) from the field, including 8-of-22 from behind the three-point line, and 78.6 percent (11-of-14) from the free throw line.
The Terriers won the rebounding battle, 38-31, but committed two more turnovers than the Spartans, 12-10.
Thomas (15-12) moves on to the NAC Tournament championship game Saturday, Feb. 25, at 2 p.m. against the winner of the second semifinal game between Husson and Lyndon State. Castleton sees its 2016-17 season end with a 16-9 overall record.