March 10, 2012

University of the District of Columbia Men's Basketball Team's Late Rally Falls Short; Firebirds Fall to Stonehill, 65-61 in NCAA East Region Quarterfinals

WORCESTER, MA - The No. 8 seeded University of the District of Columbia men's basketball team used a late rally to make it a one-possession game, but it was too little too late as the Firebirds fell to No. 2 seed Stonehill, 65-61 in the NCAA East Region quarterfinals at Laska Gym on Saturday afternoon.

District of Columbia, playing in its first NCAA Tournament in 25 years, finished the season 22-6 overall. Stonehill (22-8) advances to the semifinal round where the Skyhawks will meet No. 3 seed Adelphi.

Dishawn Bradshaw (Baltimore, MD - St. Frances Academy) led the Firebirds with 24 points on 8-of-14 shooting and Brandon Herbert (Baltimore, MD - McDonough HS) added 17. Dyrek Jones (Brooklyn, NY - Bedford Academy) also pitched in with eight points and 14 rebounds. The Firebirds shot just 36-percent from the field against the 4th ranked scoring defense and 11th ranked field goal percentage defense in the nation.

Stonehill was led by Brian Hamor's game-high 26 points and Patrick Lee's double-double of 14 points and 14 rebounds. Adam Fazzini also dropped in 11 points for the Skyhawks, who were coming off their first Northeast-10 championship since 1989.

A very evenly played game throughout, Stonehill had a slight edge in field goal shooting (40-percent to 36-percent) and rebounding (41-40), but UDC was much more accurate from three-point range (8-of-16, 50-percent to 8-of-22, 36-percent). Free-throw shooting and a few missed opportunities on good looks at the basket did the Firebirds in as they made only 7-of-12 (58-percent) at the line and missed a few easy layups. All six of UDC's losses this season came when the Firebirds were outrebounded, and four the of six occured when their opponent shot a better field goal percentage.

A see-saw battle at the start, three long-range bombs by Herbert in a span of under four minutes gave the Firebirds a 13-12 lead with just over 11 minutes to play in the first half. However, that would be UDC's final lead of the afternoon as Lee led Stonehill on a 7-0 run to put the Skyhawks ahead 19-13, and they never looked back. Stonehill grew its lead to as many as 10 after a three-pointer by Hamor at the 3:03 mark, but UDC closed out the half on a 7-2 run and closed the gap to five at the intermission.

District of Columbia opened the second half on a 4-0 run which cut its deficit to two, 30-28 almost two minutes into the action after the break. Stonehill quickly responded with an 8-0 charge to grow its lead back to 10, but back came the Firebirds once more on a 7-0 run to make it a three-point game at the 11:47 mark. Again, the Skyhawks were up to the task, answering with an 11-2 run to take its largest lead of the game up to that point, 51-39 as the game clock dipped under eight-and-a-half minutes.

By the 2:45 mark, Stonehill had upped its lead to 15 after a Hamor layup, but Bradshaw led the Firebirds on a furious late rally, helping UDC close the gap to just three with a 14-2 run over a span of just 2:38. Dyrek Jones' putback layup after a Nigel Munson miss made the score 64-61 with seven seconds to play, and UDC put Hamor on the line shooting a 1-and-1 with six ticks left in regulation. Hamor sank the first which sealed the game for the Skyhawks, and they went on to win, 65-61.

UDC says goodbye to six quality seniors, including three starting guards (Nigel Munson, Brandon Herbert, Dishawn Bradshaw) who all eclipsed 1,000 points in their collegiate careers. The Firebirds return seven players next year, including the nation's 2nd leading shot blocker and East Coast Conference defensive player of the year, junior forward Dyrek Jones.