March 14, 2011

            The Middlebury College men’s basketball team will make its first appearance in the final four after the Panthers topped St. Mary’s (Md.) by a score of 65-50 in a sectional final in Rochester, N.Y. Middlebury will take on St. Thomas in a semifinal game on March 18 in Salem, Virginia, while Williams meets Wooster in the other semifinal contest. The Panthers continue to improve on their school-record with a 28-1 mark.

Despite shooting .478 from the floor in the first half, Middlebury found themselves trailing 23-13 with 6:14 remaining. The Panthers came alive late in the half, going on a 9-0 run behind a two and a three from sophomore Nolan Thompson (Akron, Ohio) and a dunk from senior Andrew Locke (Seattle, Wash.) to cut the lead to 23-22 with 3:12 left to playing. Middlebury entered the intermission trailing 27-25, with 13 first half turnovers, while forcing 10 from St. Mary’s.

            Middlebury came out firing in the second half, opening with an 11-2 run to take a 38-29 lead at the 13:48 mark. Junior Ryan Sharry (Braintree, Mass.) hit a two and a three to start the run, with sophomore Jake Wolfin (Woodcliff Lake, N.J.) scoring four points in the early spurt. The Seahawks came within five with 12:25 remaining on a hoop from Kyle Wise, but that’s as close as they’d get.

            The Panthers methodically increased their lead, reaching double-digits for good with 6:18 left on a dunk from Sharry with a helper from Wolfin. Middlebury led by as many as 16 in the game, ending with a 65-50 victory.

            Wolfin netted 16 points on 7 of 11 shooting with nine assists and three steals. Sharry scored 11 with 10 boards, while Locke scored 13 with nine boards and six blocks. Thompson added 10 points in the win, while first-year player Joey Kizel (Short Hills, N.J.) netted seven with four assists off the bench. Alex Franz led St. Mary’s with 16, while Chris Hutchinson scored 10.

            Middlebury shot a red-hot .625 in the second half, finishing the game at .553, going 4 of 10 from behind the arc. The Panthers held St. Mary’s to .339 from the floor, including 3 of 13 from three-point range.

Middlebury advanced to the NCAA Quarterfinals (elite eight) for the first time in school history after a 61-52 win at Rochester in an NCAA Sectional contest.

            Middlebury took a 6-3 lead early on four points from Sharry, before a pair of three’s from Rochester’s Mike Labanowski gave the Yellowjackets a 9-6 lead at the 15:02 mark. Middlebury trailed 20-19 with 9:42 left in the half before going on a 6:47 scoring drought. Fortunately for the Panthers, Rochester was only able to extend its lead to 26-19 during the stretch, with senior Ryan Wholey (Pelham, N.H.) ending the slump with a three at the 2:55 mark. A late first half hoop from senior Jamal Davis (Brooklyn, N.Y.) left Middlebury with a 28-24 deficit at the intermission. The Panthers held Rochester to .318 from the floor in the first half, with eight blocked shots. Middlebury turned the ball over eight times, with three coming from the Yellowjackets.

            Middlebury made its first three shots of the second half to take a 31-28 lead 1:51 in. Sharry hit a three for the Panthers at the 15:36 mark, giving them a 35-32 lead they would not relinquish. Leading by one, Middlebury went on an 8-0 run behind a pair of threes from Wolfin to give them a 43-34 advantage with 13:07 left to play. The lead remained in single digits, with the Yellowjackets making it a four-point game at 48-44 with 7:41 remaining on a hoop from Nate Novosel. Middlebury led by as many as nine later in the half, closing with a 61-52 win after a pair of free throws from Wolfin with 21 seconds remaining.

            The Middlebury defense blocked 14 shots in the game, holding Rochester to .302 shooting from the floor on the night. The Panthers held a 42-34 advantage on the boards, shooting .453 from the field.

            Sharry led the balanced attack with 15 points, 10 boards and four blocks for his 14th double-double of the season. Wolfin added 13 points and four assists, Kizel had 10 with five boards, while Locke scored five with eight rebounds and six blocked shots.

            John DiBartolomeo paced Rochester with 13 points, Novosel added nine with six boards, while Labanowski also netted nine.
• Men’s basketball record: 28-1
• Up next: 3/18 vs. St. Thomas in Salem, Va. – 8:00, if win – 3/19 – NCAA Champ. – 3:30