Thirty-two straight wins. The first regional title in the program's 44-year history. The best single season in New England men's college basketball history.
Fitting then, that the undefeated Bentley men's basketball team is headed next week to Springfield, the birthplace of basketball, to compete for a Division 2 national championship.
"We will not talk about winning a national championship," said 16-year Bentley coach Jay Lawson after Tuesday night's 63-54 win over Bryant for the Northeast Regional title before a full house of over 2,000 in Waltham.
No, the focus, as it has been all season long, is on the next game.
And next up for the Falcons is defending national champion Winona State (33-0) in a national quarterfinal next Wednesday night at the MassMutual Center (8:30 tap). Winona won its 54th straight game last night, blitzing Minnesota State 89-76 in the North Central final.
The Falcons defended, they crashed the boards, they shared the ball and the end result was the same as the previous 31 games, a victory.
The Falcons earned their ticket by beating Northeast-10 Conference rival Bryant for the fourth time this season.
Sophomore Lew Finnegan (13 points) of Lexington and freshman Jason Westrol (13 points) lead a balanced attack, senior Jeff Holmes contributed 11 points and five rebounds while senior Andy Smith collected a team-high 10 rebounds off the bench.
"We put the focus on defense and rebounding and it didn't matter who scored," said the 6-foot-5 Holmes.
The Falcons defend with intelligence. In their three-game conquest of the regional, Bentley limited their foes to 27 total free throws, including eight last night. "Discipline," said Lawson proudly. "If you out free-throw your opponent, you'll win 95 percent of the time."
Now for the first time in the 44 years of the program, Bentley is headed to the Elite Eight. "That's neat," said Lawson. "I got an email from Al Shields, the first athletic director and coach of the program this morning from Florida, and said he was representing 40 years of alums in wishing us well."
-- Craig Larson
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