Tourney of Champions: Bracket 1

The Providence College Tournament of Champions gets underway with four intriguing match-ups, including the overall number one seed.

(1) 1973 vs. (16) 1966
A sellout crowd at the Dunk thrilled to some of PC's finest for a half, but in the end, the '66 Friars were brought back to earth by the '73 squad and the realization that they had no one to match up in the middle with super center Marvin Barnes.

For the first twenty minutes, senior point guard Ernie DiGregorio and junior point Jimmy Walker traded one long basket after another. DiGregorio would score sixteen points in the half, while Walker poured in eighteen, and Mike Riordan (7 points, 9 rebounds) hit the glass to help keep the ‘66ers close. A late six point burst, keyed by a DiGregorio bomb, a Nehru King layup and a Fran Costello ten footer sent the ‘73s to the lockerroom with a slim 39-37 lead.

In the second half, Dave Gavitt adjusted to Joe Mullaney's match up zone by having DiGregorio and Kevin Stacom pour the ball inside to Barnes. Bob Kovalski held his ground but couldn't contend with the more mobile Barnes, who spun around the Big K for layups, tip-ins and offensive put backs. A 43-41 lead turned into an insurmountable 67-48 margin with a quick six minute spurt. Back to back Ernie D no look passes to a cutting Barnes for layups, a Barnes block of a Jim Benedict drive, and a Barnes up and under against a statue-like Kovalski and the 73s were off to the races.

Walker was brilliant in defeat, scoring 33, but the 66ers had no defense inside against Barnes and company, and Benedict (12 points) and Bill Blair (8 points) were held below their averages. Barnes finished with 28 points (20 in the second half) and 18 rebounds, while DiGregorio chipped in with 26 points and 11 assists and Stacom had a quiet but effective 16 points, and the 73s were never seriously threatened in the last twelve minutes.
Final score: 1973 83, 1966 65.

(3) 1963 vs. (14) 1972
Two teams that love to fast break squared off in front of an appreciative crowd in a game that lived up to the pregame hype. In the end, the older, more experienced team emerged victorious, but not without dodging a few bullets.

The first half featured racehorse basketball that alternated between spectacular plays and sloppy turnovers. The 72s jumped out to an early lead behind junior Ernie DiGregorio and sophomore Marvin Barnes. Ernie D repeatedly cut through the defense to dump the ball down low to Barnes, who seemed to sky above the competition. But for every pinpoint pass that connected, DiGregorio sailed others out of bounds past unsuspecting teammates. The turnovers allowed the 63s to stay in the game early.

Vinnie Ernst flashed his own ballhandling wizardry and lofted alley-oop passes for John Thompson and Jimmy Stone. When Ernst picked DiGregorio's pocket and passed ahead to Thompson for a slam, the 63s ended the half with a 42-41 lead.

The second half featured more disciplined basketball as both teams ran their fast breaks to perfection. Ernst and DiGregorio traded drives for layups and the two mobile centers, Thompson and Barnes battled to a standoff, with the older Thompson wearing Barnes down. The difference in the game proved to be Ray Flynn. With the score knotted at 65-all with eight minutes left, Flynn, who had been ice cold, heated up from downtown and buried a series of long range daggers. The last missile came with a minute to play and opened a 89-83 lead for the 63s.

Thompson led the 63s with 24 points, while Stone chipped in 21 points and Flynn poured in 17 points, all in the second half. For the 73s, Barnes managed 28 points and 14 rebounds and DiGregorio added 25 points, but youth and a lack of a solid third scoring option doomed the 72s against the well balanced, experienced 63s.
Final score: 1963 90, 1972 86.

(4) 1974 vs. (12) 1978
Both of these teams endured seasons of narrow, gut-wrenching victories. Why should this first round matchup be any different?

Missing their floor general of the previous three years, Ernie DiGregorio, Dave Gavitt turned the point guard reins on the 74s over to Kevin Stacom, and Stacom ran a fundamentally sound offense, based on getting to ball inside to Marvin Barnes or outside to freshman shooting sensation Joe Hassett. Meanwhile, the 78s were led by the senior frontcourt troika of Soup Campbell, Bob Misevicius and Bill Eason, but the offense sizzled in the hands of junior ballhandling genius Dwight Williams.

Barnes and freshman jumping jack Bob Cooper dominated inside early as the 74s jumped out to a 18-7 lead. The 78s fought back behind their high-low offense, as Misevicius passed down low to Campbell and Eason cutting to the hoop. When the 74s packed in their zone and Barnes and Cooper began rejecting shots, Williams began looking for his own shot and buried two deep jumpers, sandwiched around two dazzling drives for layups and halftime found the 78s on top, 37-34.

In the second half, the 78s continued to score methodically on Campbell lefty baby hooks, Eason short jumpers and Williams drives, but the 74s slowly heated up and crept back into the game. Barnes was unstoppable inside, Stacom and Hassett both found the range on their deep bombs, and a Hassett missile after a Cooper block on a Paul Oristaglio attempt tied the score at 67-all with fifteen seconds left. Williams bounced the ball off of his foot out of bounds and the 74s had a final chance. With Barnes used as a decoy, Stacom passed to a cutting Rick Santos for a layup at the buzzer.

Barnes finished with 22 points and 16 rebounds, while Stacom had 20 points and Hassett 16. For the losers, Williams scored 18, Campbell 16 and Eason 14, as untimely turnovers and a lack of rebounding doomed the 78s.
Final score: 1974 69, 1978 67.

(7) 1977 vs. (10) 1990
In the final game of the night, an already drained crowd watched two evenly matched teams battle down to the wire. And when the dust settled, even the fans weren't sure what they'd witnessed.

The first half featured great point guard play and tough shooting. Dwight Williams and Carlton Screen went right at each other, and Eric Murdock bodied up Joe Hassett, but the taller Hassett managed to sink several contested, deep bombs. Marty Conlon flashed several drop step and up and under moves for inside hoops, while Soup Campbell and Bob Misevicius tore the 90s up inside. No more than three points separated the two teams throughout the first half, as the 77s went to the lockerroom up 38-35.

In the second half, Rick Barnes utilized Marques Bragg and Greg Bent inside to combat the bigger Misevicius and Campbell, and when Campbell picked up his fourth foul with eight minutes to play, Dave Gavitt went to senior Bob Cooper.

Murdock hit a leaner for a 63-61 lead and forced a Hassett miss. When Abdul Shamsid-Deen grabbed the rebound and fired a long outlet to a streaking Quinton Burton, the 90s were up by four. Screen and Murdock applied a suffocating press and Eason turned the ball over and a Murdock drive pushed the lead to six. The 78s fought back frantically. Cooper reverse dunked, Williams drove for a layup, and after another Murdock jumper, Misevicius buried a foul line jumper. After a Screen free throw, the 90s led 70-67 with twenty five seconds left. Hassett buried a baseline jumper to cut the lead to one, and Barnes called his final time out.

With six seconds left, Murdock missed a leaner in close and Campbell snagged the rebound. Now the 77s rushed up court, and Williams passed to Cooper, who took a step and let a soft push shot go which settled into the basket. But the buzzer had sounded and the officials waved the shot off. For close to ten minutes, the referees studied the replay monitors as Dave Gavitt and Barnes paced nervously near their teams. With a final wave of their arms, the refs headed for the exit, as Hassett chased after them and the fans sat stunned.
Final score: 1990 70, 1977 69.

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