'KEENE, N.H. 02/27/06 - The basketball seasons for Keene State College men's and women's teams will continue. Each earned berths in their respective ECAC New England Division III tournaments on Monday.
Both teams will play opening round games on Wednesday night at 7 p.m. Selected as the top seed, the Owl men (20-7) will host eighth seed Colby-Sawyer College (17-10) at Spaulding Gym. The sixth-seeded KSC women (16-11) will travel to Boston to face third seed Emmanuel College (21-7).
"I thought there was a good chance we'd be the top seed," said KSC men's coach Rob Colbert. "If we take care of business, we have a chance to play the entire tournament at home."
Both the Owls and the Chargers lost in the finals of respective conference tournaments. KSC fell to UMass-Boston (81-67) in the Little East Conference while CSC came up short against Endicott College (65-56) in the Commonwealth Coast Conference title game.
The pairing is the exact opposite from last year, when top-seeded Colby-Sawyer defeated the eighth-seeded Owls 89-61 in New London. The two teams also met earlier this season at the Jacob's Bridge tournament in Concord with KSC prevailing 81-80 on a buzzer-beating three-point basket by David Sontag.
Disappointed at missing out on an NCAA tournament bid, Colbert said his team is looking forward to playing in the ECACs. "We had a team meeting and players are excited that their season is extended," Colbert said. "They want to end their season on a positive note."
For freshman Tyler Kathan, the tournament can provide valuable experience down the road. "I think it will help to experience tournament play and get some more games under my belt," he said.
Keene State is no stranger to the ECAC tournament. The Owls will be making their seventh trip to the regional tournament in the past nine years. KSC has reached the finals on two occasions: losing to Colby-Sawyer (102-95) in 1998 and falling to Babson College (81-71) in 2003. CSC is making its third straight trip and seventh overall appearance in the tournament.
The victor of Wednesday's game will face the winner between fourth seed Rhode Island College and fifth seed Coast Guard Academy on Friday. The championship game will be played on Saturday at the highest remaining seed.
The Keene State women, who lost in the semifinals of the LEC tournament to eventual champ Southern Maine (65-40), are returning to the ECAC tournament for the first time since 2003. The Owls last played Emmanuel during the 1982-83 season.
"I'm excited for the players, and it's well deserved," said KSC women's coach Keith Boucher. "We play a very difficult schedule and I'd like to think they took that into account. We played the number one team in the country three times this season, so we're battle tested."
The Owls will be facing an Emmanuel College team that has an impressive history. The Saints, upset by Norwich University (44-35) in the finals of the Great Northeast Conference, have made 11 trips to the NCAA tournament, reaching the final four in 2001. Winners of five previous GNAC titles, Emmanuel set the record for the longest regular-season conference win streak (72 games) from 2000-06.
Emmanuel, who used to scrimmage Keene during its Division II days, presents several problems for the Owls. "They're very athletic, play full court, and try to disrupt you," so we'll have to play with a lot of poise," Boucher added.
A victory by the Owls will send them into the semifinal round on Friday against the winner of the game between second seed Western New England and seventh seed Nichols College. The championship game is scheduled for Saturday.
Keene, who won the ECAC Championship as a Division II member in 1988 and 1989, and also reached the championship game in 1993, will be making its third appearance in the Division III tournament. Returning to the tournament in 2002, the Owls defeated Colby-Sawyer before losing to Plymouth State in the semifinals. The following year they dropped a first round game to Colby-Sawyer.
Emmanuel, under 29-year coach Andy Yosinoff, is making its seventh appearance in the ECAC Tournament, having advanced to the finals in 1989 and 1990.