The Beacons Crush Two National-Rankers

Freshman Alberto Amigo Paniagua led the Beacons with his double-double game, 18 points and 10 rebounds, into a 86-78 victory over Keene State College at Clark Athletic Center on Saturday, December 11.

Freshman Alberto “Amigo” Paniagua led the Beacons with his double-double game, 18 points and 10 rebounds, into a 86-78 victory over Keene State College at Clark Athletic Center on Saturday, December 11.

Shun Hasegawa

I honestly confess this tacit, but yet unspoken, understanding. As you cover the UMass Boston sports scene, the first thing you have to swallow is that, in the most humble expression, we don’t win as often as we lose. You more than sometimes have to witness the representatives of your beloved school succumb to the malicious Anti-Beacons Coalition Forces by an unbelievable margin, 0-9 in a soccer game, for example. But finally, our men’s basketball team inscribed the first word of this new chapter following a mind-bogglingly long hibernation. The Beacons tossed number 25 nationally-ranked Salem State College its first defeat of the season in eight games (101-84) on Thursday, December 9, and butchered Keene State College, the defending champion of Little East Conference (LEC) by 86-78 on Saturday, both at Clark Athletic Center. The Beacons victory over Keene State College (5-3) snapped a 16-game losing streak to the Owls, which dates back to February 7, 1998. UMB (5-5) not only extended their winning streak to three but also the apparent underdog, who came back from an unattractive 5-21 (1-13 LEC) record last year, leads eight-team LEC at 2-0.

Being in an unfamiliar situation, the Beacons head coach Rodney Hughes didn’t hide his burning desire. “It’s been for a while since we were at the top of the conference. I’m proud of the place we are at. I just hope to keep it up. I want to win because I have never won it,” said the first-year skipper who had served under the former 30-year head coach Charlie Titus, the present Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs.

The milestone triumph over Keene State College highlighted the ample depth of the 2004-05 Beacons. Sophomore Tony Barros, averaging 20.6 points before the game, failed to score more than 10 for the third time in the season. But four players exceeded ten points while three others scored more than five to fill the hole up.

Freshman Alberto “Amigo” Paniagua had his second double-double game of 18 points and 10 rebounds along with six assists. Senior Eric T. Bateman added 15 points and seven rebounds. Senior Roger Perry scored 14 points, grabbed eight rebounds and provided 11 assists. Senior Eric Summerville scored 12 points. Freshman Mark Doran, eight points and five rebounds, along with senior James L. Hall, seven points and seven rebounds, contributed to the remarkable feat respectively.

Hughes praised the four double-digit scorers. “Bateman and Amigo [Paniagua] played hell of a game. [Summerville] shot the two big 3-pointers just as we needed that. And Roger was Roger. I was quite excited about that. I’m quite happy,” he commented.

For the Owls, Sean Sullivan led the team with 24 points. Harley Davis added 12 points and 13 rebounds. Erik Schlacter had 10 points.

The Beacons treated the heralded visitor with a champion-like manner. They kept the Owls trailing for 37:53 during the 40-minute game. The home team once widened the lead to 15 points in the second half and protected it until the game-ending buzzer against repetitive comebacks by the Owls.

However, the glorious achievement against last year’s 18th nationally-ranked team never came easily. From a 78-63 hole with 6:01 left, the Owls made a 14-3 run to chase the Beacons by four at 1:32. It could have been a sequence following an upset loss to Suffolk University nine days before when UMB gave up a five-point lead in the final minute and eventually lost in overtime.

The Beacons conquered their biggest weakness to prevent a loss from happening again. Bateman grabbed a defensive rebound at 1:07. And Paniagua secured another crucial one at 0:41 to protect an 82-78 lead. The home team was dominated in rebounds during the first half (31-17) but came back to finish the match almost evenly, 48-44.

On the verge of a loss they probably didn’t imagine, the Owls intentionally committed a foul on Perry to stop the clock at 0:20.

The right thing to do, but on a wrong target.

Perry, at a team-leading .903 free throw percentage, easily added two points to give the Beacons a fatal lead, 84-78 before Paniagua added two more from the line at the very end of the match.

Both team shot equally well. The Beacons had a 25-for-64 shooting (39.1 percent) while the Owls were at 28-70 (40.0 percent). Free throws determined the direction of the game. UMB scored 26 points from the line while Keene State College hit only 13.

UMB paced the Owls from the beginning. A driving layup by Perry and five points by senior Eric Sommerville produced a game-opening 10-6 run.

Keene State College wasted little time to show off its fearful potential. Propelled by a 17-11 run, the Owls once upset the score by 28-29 at 3:57 in the 20-minute first half. This, however, turned out to be the last time the Beacons trailed as Perry immediately regained a lead with a 3-pointer.

But the resilient Owls returned a 7-3 run to enter the half time slightly down, 38-36.

Stalking by the visitor reached its peak at three minutes into the second half. A personal foul call on Doran frustrated the rookie enough to heave the ball hard at the floor. A referee immediately charged a technical foul on the behavior and granted four free throws to an Owl forward Sean Sullivan. The best scorer of the team took advantage of the windfall opportunity with three successful shots to pounce on UMB, 47-46. Five points by Bateman and two three-pointers by Summerville took a lead. Perry capped a 15-5 run with a layup.

“We needed that [spurt]. I have been telling the guys ‘you can shoot the ball. But just make sure it’s on a flow of the game,'” Hughes said. “Eric [Summerville] started off the season a little bit slow. I was trying to tell him that when he shot 3-pointers, he did that at a wrong time. You can’t shoot it off dribbling. But if you are wide open with much space, you got a chance. And he did it tonight, 3 for 7 [for 3-pointers] and 4 for 9 for two-pointers at the right time.”

The Beacons second-unit filled the court and played brilliantly to keep the lead. Paniagua replied to the hustle by teammates, knocking down a 17-foot jumper to build a 78-63 lead, the damage from which the Owls never recovered from.

Perry, in the previous week, became the tenth member of the 1000-point club in team history and now has 1039 on his resume. But an individual statistics is not his present priority. “That’s great. But now I’m focusing on what our team is doing,” said the guard. “I’m happy to beat a good team [like the Owls]. Our team had a good start of the season. Hopefully, we keep doing that [for the rest of the season].”

Despite their medal-worthy performance during the week, a comment by Hughes reminded them of a reality, “If everybody focuses on and stands academically sound, we are going to be all right.” After the final exams and a short vacation, the Beacons will enter into the second part of the season in which they are scheduled to play 15 more games, 12 among them are conference matches until the end of February, 2005.

The Beacons will open the new year by playing two away games at Tufts University and a LEC-foe Rhode Island College before they host another rival in the conference, Plymouth State College, at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, January 11.