Middlebury defeated in round two of tournament

03/09/09 6:34AM By Jane Lindholm
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Jane Lindholm

(Host) The Middlebury College Men's basketball team was defeated in round two of the NCAA tournament this weekend.  VPR's Jane Lindholm has the details.

(Lindholm)  It was a heartbreaking defeat for the Panthers, who were ranked 9th in the nation in Division III.

(Lindholm) The sold-out crowd at Middlebury's Pepin Gymnasium was ecstatic throughout most of the game as Middlebury led against Massachusetts' Bridgewater State.

With just 40 seconds left to play the Panthers were up by five: 74-69.  Then Bridgewater hit a three and took a time out. 

A critical mistake by Middlebury on an inbounds pass allowed Bridgewater to steal the ball and score, tying the game.  Middlebury scored on the return, but Bridgewater's Stace Garrick drained his second 3-pointer in a row to put his team ahead.  The Panthers were unable to answer at the other end and were forced to foul.

Bridgewater hit one foul shot, leaving Middlebury down by two with one second on the clock.  Middlebury's Hail Mary pass was intercepted, and the game was over.

(Announcer) "With a final score of 76 to 78 the Panthers fall to the Bears of Bridgewater State College."

(Lindholm) After the game, Panther guard and leading scorer Ben Rudin, NESCAC Player of the Year, seemed stunned.

(Rudin) "We had them; we were in the driver's seat.  They made two great shots.  I don't think I've ever seen that. Two very well contested desperation shots and they made them.  Doesn't happen much, there's  nothing you could do about it."

This is the best team in Middlebury men's basketball history, with 24 wins and just three losses.  The team won the New England Small College Athletic Conference for the first time, and was granted a first round bye in the NCAA tournament.  And for the seniors on the team it's been a remarkable journey: four years ago the team won just 1 game.

Head Coach Jeff Brown, also named NESCAC Coach of the Year, said that's why this was a particularly tough loss.

(Brown) "We just have grown by leaps and bounds.  And we really thought we were capable of doing a lot of work in this tournament and that's why it's so disappointing the way the game ended on the last shot."

(Lindholm) Russ Reilly was a longtime coach of the men's team and is the former Athletic Director at the College.  In his retirement he now works as one of the team's assistant coaches.  Reilly says the players should be very proud of what they've accomplished for themselves and the college. 

(Reilly) "Having coached here for 20 years and sometimes only seeing 12 people in here to see the place completely packed was just very very exciting.  And Jeff did a great job of bringing in some very good basketball players who more importantly are very good human beings.  They gave the community and the college an opportunity to come in here and have a celebration.  When they look back in two or three days they're going to realize that they've accomplished a whole heck of a lot here."

(Lindholm) Unranked Bridgewater State will play Farmingdale State in the Sectionals next weekend.  For VPR news, I'm Jane Lindholm.

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