BABSON PARK, Mass.—Sophomore Joey Flannery (Acton, Mass.) scored 22 of his game-high 29 points in the second half, and senior John Wickey (Manchester, N.H.) added 25 points and six rebounds as Babson College outlasted Salem State University, 73-71, to win its second consecutive New England Big 4 Challenge title on Sunday afternoon at Staake Gymnasium.
With its sixth straight win, Babson is now 7-1 on the year. Salem State, which was playing the Big 4 Challenge championship game for the fourth year in a row, falls to 4-3 on the season.
Flannery, who earned Tournament Most Outstanding Player honors for the second time in as many years, and Wickey, who was named to the all-tournament team for the third straight season, combined to score the final 15 points of the game for the Beavers. Senior Eric Dean (Gilford, N.H.) added eight points and five rebounds in the victory, while sophomore Charlie Rice (Barnstable, Mass.) finished with six points and was 3-for-3 from the field.
Senior Hamed Akanni (Fitchburg, Mass.) scored 19 points on 9-of-11 shooting to pace three Vikings in double figures and was named to the all-tournament team. Classmate Bryan Ortiz (Salem, Mass.) had 15 points and sophomore Marcus Faison (Cambridge, Mass.) added 11 points and a team-high seven rebounds on the day.
The Green and White emerged from a first half that featured two ties and five lead changes with a 31-28 edge at the break. Salem State equaled its biggest advantage of the opening stanza on a layup by first-year Drew Healy (Lowell, Mass.) to make it 21-15 at the 8:43 mark only to see the Beavers respond with a 9-2 burst, including seven consecutive points from Wickey to help them go back in front 24-23 with 4:25 left in the period. Ortiz stopped the momentum with a hoop in the paint, but Wickey followed with six straight points to give Babson its biggest lead of the game at 30-25 just 1:51 before halftime.
After the Beavers took a 41-37 lead on a jump shot just under six minutes into the second half, the Vikings countered with a 13-3 run. Ortiz and senior Nicholas Grassa (Lynn, Mass.) each buried a three-pointer, and Healy and first-year Shaquan Murray (Boston, Mass.) scored on back-to-back possessions following a Mack layup to make it 50-44 with 9:50 remaining in the game.
The Green and White cut its deficit to one on three occasions before Flannery tied the contest at 65 with a three-pointer from the top of the key at the 3:39 mark. Ortiz knocked down a pair of free throws to put Salem State back ahead by two, but Flannery buried a deep trey on the next possession to put Babson ahead for good at 68-67 with 3:13 left.
After a pair of empty trips for both teams, Wickey and Grassa traded layups to keep the Beavers in front 70-69 with 41 seconds to go. Flannery knocked down two free throws with 20 ticks remaining to make it a three-point game, but Akanni scored with seven seconds remaining to once again pull the Vikings within a point. Wickey made the first of two free throws to give Babson a 73-71 lead with 5.6 seconds to go but missed the second to give Salem State one last chance. Akanni grabbed the board and found Ortiz, whose heave from just inside midcourt as time expired was well off the mark.
The Green and White shot 47.3 percent (26-of-55) from the floor and held a 35-28 edge on the glass. The Beavers also outscored Salem State 40-34 in the paint.
The Vikings shot 50.9 percent (29-of-57) from the field but went just 6-of-22 (27.3 percent) from beyond the arc after making 13 three-pointers in Saturday's win over Brandeis University.
Both teams return to action on Thursday as Babson travels to nationally-ranked Amherst College at 7 p.m., while Salem State hosts Plymouth State University at 7:30 p.m.
GAME NOTES: The Beavers are now 6-12 all-time against Salem State and have won back-to-back meetings in the series…Babson has won four consecutive games in the Big 4 Challenge and its two championships are second among the four teams, just behind Brandeis, which has claimed the Crotty Cup three times…Wickey, who is averaging 18.1 points, has reached double figures in 12 straight games going back to last season…the Beavers improve to 16-3 at Staake Gymnasium going back to the start of last year…Babson has won 18 of its last 21 games when outrebounding its opponent…the Beavers have won six of their last seven games decided by five points or less and are 3-1 in these situations so far this season...sophomores John Powell of Brandeis and Tom Palleschi of Tufts University were also both named to the all-tournament team.