CASTLETON, Vt. – The Castleton University men's basketball team enters its 14th and final North Atlantic Conference Tournament as the sixth seed, traveling to New London, N.H., to face third seed Colby-Sawyer College in a quarterfinal Tuesday, Feb. 20, starting at 7 p.m.
The Spartans ended the regular season with a 12-13 overall record, including a 9-9 mark within the NAC to finish sixth in the standings. After going 8-2 through the first 10 games after the holiday break, Castleton has lost its last four contests, but three of those defeats have been by five points or less.
As a team, Castleton is scoring 73.6 points and allowing 73.8 points per game, plus the Spartans are shooting 43.8 percent from the field, including 31.2 percent from behind the three-point line, and 63.8 percent from the free throw line. The Spartans have continually pressured the opposing team's offense, forcing 18.3 turnovers per game, currently 24th in Division III.
Ben Mrowka returned to the Spartan rotation Saturday after missing 12 straight games with an injury and continues to lead the team in scoring average at 11.2 points per game. Pavin Parrish is averaging 10.7 points, 3.2 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 1.9 steals per game, and Tondi Mushandu is contributing 10.6 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 1.6 steals per contest.
Colby-Sawyer completed the 2017-18 regular season with a 16-8 overall record, including a 13-5 mark within the NAC to finish third in the league standings. The Chargers have won three of their last four games, wrapping up the conference schedule with victories over Lyndon (84-74) and at Johnson State (95-74).
As a team, the Chargers are scoring 76.3 points and allowing 70.3 points per game, plus they are shooting 42.6 percent from the field, including 32.7 percent from behind the three-point line, and 67.0 percent from the free throw line. Colby-Sawyer is third in the NAC in scoring offense, second in scoring defense, and second in fewest turnovers per game at 15.1.
Dana Bean has been Colby-Sawyer's top player, averaging 15.9 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 1.3 blocked shots per game as well as shooting 54.3 percent from the field. Patrick Coffey is contributing 14.5 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.1 assists, and 1.4 steals per game, while Jourdain Bell is averaging 13.3 points, 3.7 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 2.7 steals per game.
This season, Colby-Sawyer swept the season series from Castleton, but both games were extremely close. On Dec. 5 in New London, N.H., Castleton seemingly had control of the game, but Colby-Sawyer made one final charge in the final three minutes of regulation, as the Chargers defeated the Spartans, 71-69. Mushandu led Castleton with 18 points and seven rebounds, plus he also had three assists and two steals. Taylor Grande led Colby-Sawyer with 19 points, Coffey scored 15 points, and Bean notched a double-double with 10 points and 12 rebounds.
Two weeks ago in Glenbrook Gym, the Chargers built a 14-point lead with 5:19 left in regulation, but the Spartans made a furious comeback that came up short, as Colby-Sawyer survived with a 73-70 victory. Parrish finished with a season-high 22 points for the Spartans, while Bean collected 20 points and nine rebounds to leads the Chargers.
This will be the 25th NAC Tournament game for Castleton, with the Spartans splitting the previous 24, 12-12. Castleton is 8-0 at home, 2-9 in true road games, and 2-3 in neutral site games in the tournament. The Spartans, NAC Tournament champions in 2012, have lost three straight tournament games, last winning in the conference tournament in the 2015 quarterfinals against Thomas, 70-60.
Castleton and Colby-Sawyer are facing off in the NAC Tournament for the third time, with the teams splitting the first two matchups. In the 2012 final, the Spartans defeated the Chargers 102-76 to earn the automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament. In the 2015 semifinals, the two teams went to double overtime before Colby-Sawyer prevailed, 79-76, led by Wol Majong with 27 points, 11 rebounds, five assists, and six steals. Chad Copeland led the Spartans with 16 points and 10 rebounds.
The winner of the quarterfinal between Castleton and Colby-Sawyer will head to Henniker, N.H., to face second seed Husson in the second semifinal Friday, Feb. 23, at 7:30 p.m.