STATEN ISLAND, Ny. (WDVM) – The fourth-seeded Mount St. Mary’s men’s basketball team upset top-seeded Wagner Saturday afternoon 66-60 in the Northeast Conference semifinals.
Head Coach, Dan Engelstad, said after the game that his team was built for this moment. “That was the message to them all week.”
After being swept by Wagner in the regular season just over two weeks ago, Mount knew they had to come in with a different game plan. “We were going to make some big adjustments in just how we were going to guard them and our guys delivered on that game plan.”
Mount’s conference-leading defense held Wagner to 36.1 percent shooting and kept the the NEC’s Player of The Year, Alex Morales, to just 10 points (7.3 points below his average). Elijah Ford, who currently ranks second in the NEC in scoring, was also kept below his average of 17.7 ppg with 15, though he still ended the day with a double-double adding 13 rebounds.
Offensively, the Mount was lead by Damien Chong Oui and Nana Opoku who each contributed 14 points and combined for the final four points of the game that sealed the deal to send the blue and white to it’s first conference championship since 2017 when Mount came back to beat Saint Francis University 71-61.
Chong Qui was fouled with four seconds left and hit both of his free throws to put his team up by five. Mezie Ofurum in-bounded the ball from the opposite end of the floor with 1.1 seconds remaining on the clock to Opoku who put the exclamation point on the win with a two handed slam.
“It felt really good,” said Opoku. “It was definitely a game that we were looking forward to. We knew it was going to be a grudge match and that’s a major way to end the game.”
Deandre Thomas put up 13 points, and Malik Jefferson captured his second consecutive double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Mount will now face second-seeded Bryant in the conference final game which will be played Tuesday night in Rhode Island at 7:00 p.m.
The Mountaineers and the Bulldgos have yet to play each other this season. The two teams were originally supposed to play a two-game series in early February that was postponed due to COVID and rescheduled for the beginning of this month to close out the regular season, but those games too, fell victim to COVID and were cancelled.
This is the eighth time in program history that Mount has advanced to the NEC Championship game, and a win on Tuesday night would earn the program it’s 6th conference title.