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men’s basketball

Ravens to make first Elite 8 trip in school history

FPU will play South Central Region Champion Metro State University on Thursday at Freedom Hall in Louisville, Ky.

The East Region Champion Franklin Pierce University men’s basketball team will leave for Louisville, Ky. today for the first NCAA Division II Elite Eight appearance in program history.

The Ravens, who defeated University of Bridgeport 57-52 one week ago in the East Region finals, will take on Metro State University on Thursday at noon in the first of four national quarterfinals games at Freedom Hall. Metro State is the champion of the South Central Region and is currently ranked No. 3 in all of Division II.

The winner of Thursday’s Elite Eight match-up will play the winner of Winona State, the Central Region champion, and West Liberty, the Atlantic Region champion, on Saturday at noon. The national championship game will be held April 7 in Atlanta.

After falling in the Northeast-10 Conference title game, FPU earned an at-large bid and the No. 1 seed in the East Region for the second year in a row. In three games in the regional tournament, the Ravens defeated Bloomfield College — the team that knocked them out of last year’s East Region — the University of New Haven and Bridgeport.

Metro State won the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference tournament title and went on to win its second straight South Central Region championship with a 78-70 win over St. Mary’s (Texas). Last year, the Roadrunners lost in the Elite Eight.

The Ravens are 24-8 overall this season and posted a 16-6 mark in NE-10 play. They enter Thursday’s game on a three-game win streak, while Metro State (30-2) has won seven in a row. Both were No. 1 seeds in their regions and seven of the eight remaining teams owned the top ranking in their region.

FPU is averaging 72.9 points per game and allowing opponents to score 66.6. The Roadrunners rank 32nd in Division II at 78.8 points per game and 22nd in scoring defense, 62.4. The Ravens hold an edge in rebounding over Metro State, grabbing 35.6 per game to just 30.5 for their Elite Eight opponent. FPU is shooting 45.6 percent from the floor, including 33.5 from three-point range, while dishing out 15.2 assists.

FPU has three players scoring in double figures, led by two-time NE-10 Player of the Year senior Eric Jean-Guillaume’s 16.3. Junior Ellis Cooper, the East Region’s Most Outstanding Player, is averaging 14.2 and a team-best 7.1 rebounds and sophomore Ryen Vilmont is scoring 12.1.

The Roadrunners are led by RMAC Player of the Year Jonathan Morse, who averages a team-high in points, 14.7, and rebounds, 8.6. Brandon Jefferson scores 14.6 per game and Demetrius Miller, the South Central Region Most Outstanding Player, averages 13.9. Metro State has five players who score in double figures.

Prior to this year, FPU had not advanced past the semifinals of the East Region since joining Division II in the mid-1990s. It was the program’s seventh regional title overall.

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