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FPU men advance to East Region finals

With Sunday night’s 80-63 win over the University of New Haven, the Franklin Pierce University men’s basketball team advanced to the NCAA Division II East Regional championship game for the first time in program history.

The Ravens, the No. 1 seed in the region, will square off with seventh seeded University of Bridgeport at 7 p.m. tonight at Southern New Hampshire University for a spot in the Elite Eight. Bridgeport defeated Assumption College 58-56 in Sunday’s other semifinal game.

“At this point, you’re talking about two very good teams,” said FPU coach David Chadbourne.

Last year, FPU was also the top seed in the East Region and made it to the second round of the NCAA tournament before being knocked out by Bloomfield College. On Saturday, the Ravens got some revenge for that loss with a 90-78 victory over Bloomfield in the regional opener.

“The experience last year has helped us this year without question,” said Chadbourne.

FPU enters the game with a 23-8 record overall, while the Purple Knights are 23-9.

On Sunday, the Ravens scored 20 of the game’s first 24 points to take a commanding lead over New Haven. They never looked back. The FPU advantage was 44-19 at the half after shooting 57 percent in the opening 20 minutes.

“Our Achilles heel all year has been not getting out to good starts,” said Chadbourne. “To be up 25 at the half was a dream.”

Four players reached double figures for the Ravens, led by junior Adrianos Vourliotakis Perdikaris’ double-double. Vourliotakis scored 19 points to go along with 12 rebounds.

“He’s really stepped up his game and he’s made a huge difference in this tournament,” said Chadbourne.

Senior Eric Jean-Guillaume, the two-time Northeast-10 Player of the Year, scored 17 with four assists, while junior Ellis Cooper had 14 points. Sophomore Ryen Vilmont added 13 with seven rebounds.

FPU owned a 38-28 advantage in points in the paint and a 31-26 edge on the boards.

“We completely controlled the game on both ends of the floor,” said Chadbourne.

The win improved them to 4-2 all-time against NE-10 opponents in the Division II tournament. FPU played New Haven once during the regular season, a 53-50 home loss on Jan. 15.

The Ravens were up 43-35 at the half over Bloomfield in the first round of the tournament and went on to win by 12 after shooting 52 percent for the game.

Cooper entered the contest needing just 10 points to reach 1,000 for his career and finished with 21 and eight rebounds to become the 31st player in program history to achieve the milestone. He was one of four Ravens in double figures, followed by Jean-Guillaume’s 20. Vilmont scored 17 and Vourliotakis added 16 and eight rebounds.

“The two games we’ve played in the NCAA tournament are two of the best games we’ve played all year,” said Chadbourne.

FPU earned an at-large bid to the East Regional after falling to Southern New Hampshire University 85-74 in the NE-10 championship game on March 9. As the fourth seed in the conference tournament, the Ravens defeated Southern Connecticut State in the opening round before upsetting top seeded Saint Anselm in the semifinals. It was the first appearance in the NE-10 title game in program history.

The Ravens were strong out of the gate, winning eight of their first nine games, after receiving a pair of preseason top 10 rankings. FPU then lost three of its next five before grabbing another eight wins over the next nine games.

FPU has enjoyed playing at Southern New Hampshire University this season. The Ravens have won all five games there, including two in a season opening tournament and their only trip to play the Penmen.

The NCAA Division II Elite Eight will be held in Louisville, Ky, March 28 and 30.

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