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River Hawks historic season comes to an end

(Photo courtesy of The Lowell Sun) “River Hawks basketball player Everette Hammond shoots a basket.”

Andrew Wilcox
Connector Editor

The River Hawks fell short to their conference rival Vermont in the America East Championship after a historic season for the program.

UMass Lowell held strong in the America East during the regular season, winning 11 of their 16 conference games and going undefeated at home while finishing the season with a combined record of 24-7.

As such, UMass Lowell earned a home playoff berth in the first round for the first time ever in the America East and were set to face UMaine at the start of the tournament.

On Saturday, March 4th, the Costello Athletic Center was packed full of River Hawks fans on the weekend to start spring break. As UMaine came into a loud atmosphere, the River Hawks looked to take a quarterfinals win and advance in the playoffs.

Quickly, the River Hawks took off and established a dominating lead. At the end of the first half, the River Hawks led 44-26 and were red-hot from everywhere on the court. By the second half, UMaine had lost some steam while UMass Lowell stayed on fire. They led against their opponent in this half 41-28 and finished the game with a convincing 85-54 win to start the playoffs,

Freshman guard Brayden O’Connor led all scorers for UMass Lowell this game with 14 points in 22 minutes. Following close behind him was graduate student guard Everette Hammond who scored 13 points on 5-8 shooting as well as senior guard Ayinde Hikim who scored 12 points on 6-12 shooting and senior forward Abdoul Karim Coulibaly who scored ten points in 13 minutes and made all three of his shot attempts.

For UMaine, fifth year guard Gedi Juozapaitis led his team in scoring with 16 points in 36 minutes on 7-11 shooting. Sophomore guard Kellen Tynes followed behind with 11 points in 32 minutes on 5-8 shooting.

With the win, UMass Lowell prepared to host the semi-finals as the University of New Hampshire (UNH) came down to Lowell.

The game was close at the end of the first half with the River Hawks only leading by one point, the score 34-33. However, UMass Lowell would take off in the second half as they outscored their opponent that half by ten points. As such, UMass Lowell would take the semi-finals win with a score of 75-64 and would go to compete in the America East championship for a chance at earning their first ever title in the conference.

Graduate student forward Allin Blunt would lead the team in scoring with 19 points in 35 minutes on 7-9 shooting and would also rack in four steals and four rebounds. Everette Hammond followed behind with 17 points in 33 minutes on 5-9 shooting; he would also just barely miss the double-double with nine rebounds and even tacked on four assists to his stat line. Ayinde Hikim would score 14 points in 31 minutes on 3-8 shooting and would also tack on two steals, four assists and three rebounds. Abdoul Karim Coulibaly would only score four points at the end of the game, but took in three rebounds, dished out four assists and even had two steals of his own. Likewise, in just 15 minutes, sophomore forward Cam Morris III would tally three blocks on his stat-line as he defended the paint.

For UNH, junior guard Nick Johnson led all scorers with 21 points in 40 minutes on 8-17 shooting. On top of his high scoring, he also took in five rebounds, rejected a shot and tacked on four steals in his huge performance. Following behind him was junior guard Kyree Brown who in 35 minutes scored 15 points on 5-13 shooting, dished out 7 assists and had a block and a steal of his own.

UMass Lowell then hit the road to face Vermont in the America East Championship. Looking to grab their first America East title, the River Hawks started the game off hot and even led at the end of the first half 29-25. However, Vermont would find their stride in the second half and started firing on all cylinders, outscoring the River Hawks by 17 in the second half and taking their second consecutive championship with a 72-59 victory.

For the River Hawks, Allin Blunt led all scorers with 14 points on 4-12 shooting in 38 minutes. For UVM, fifth year guard Dylan Penn led all scorers with 21 points in 33 minutes on 8-12 shooting.

Despite the loss, UMass Lowell shocked the America East with a dominant season. Although they fell short this year, the team has made history and will no doubt look to bounce back even stronger next season.

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