hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

February 8, 2012

NECC fights to qualify for playoffs

By Alex Lippa
alippa@hgazette.com

The Northern Essex Community College men's basketball team is fighting to stay alive for a playoff spot.

Here is a wrapup of the Knights' recent games:

Jan. 17

Roxbury Community College79

NECC64

Matt Sifferlen: 13 points, 4 rebounds, 2 steals

Kyle Davis: 12 points, 17 rebounds,

James Morgan-Thames: 3 assists, 2 steals

Playing against the third-ranked team in Division 3 of the National Junior College Athletic Association, the Knights pressed and ran out to an eight-point lead. After a run by Roxbury, the Knights found themselves trailing at halftime. The Knights came out strong in the second half, but another run by Roxbury upped the lead up to 17 points. Northern Essex played even with Roxbury in the final minutes of the second half, but was never able to cut the lead to single digits.

Jan. 19

NECC82

Lincoln College (Conn.)75

Kyle Davis: 20 points, 16 assists

Matt Sifferlen: 17 points, 7 rebounds, 3 steals

James Morgan-Thames: 5 assists, 3 steals

A motivating speech from coach Darren Stratton helped Northern Essex recover from a 12-point deficit at halftime. The team came out of the break fired up and outscored Lincoln by 19 points in the second half to roll to a seven-point victory.

Jan. 24

Massasoit Community College80

NECC55

Luis Rijo: 16 points

Sted Bourdeau: 11 points, 7 rebounds

Jarvis Castro: 4 assists

Bernie St. Vil: 6 rebounds

After losing star forward Kyle Davis for the rest of the season, the Knights tumbled badly to Massasoit. The team was not able to replace Davis' scoring and rebounding.

Jan. 26

Bunker Hill Community College78

NECC46

Junior Veras: 9 points

Bernie St. Vil: 15 rebounds

Manny Sanchez: 7 points, 9 rebounds

Still trying to adjust to the loss of Kyle Davis, Northern Essex lost its second straight game in blowout fashion. The Knights were plagued by shooting troubles, as they shot only 25 percent from the field and had just 15 points in the first half. Coach Nick Nofi said that the loss was frustrating for the Knights because they had beaten Bunker Hill by 20 points earlier in the season.

Jan. 31

NECC80

Nashua Community College67

Luis Rijo: 21 points

Manny Sanchez: 16 points

Bernie St. Vil: 12 points, 14 rebounds

Junior Veras: 10 points

Sted Bourdeau: 6 assists, 4 steals

Northern Essex broke a two-game losing streak with a win over Nashua. The team improved offensively and defensively over their previous two games in the victory.

Feb. 2

Dean70

NECC65

Sted Bourdeau: 15 points

Junior Veras: 14 points

Bernie St. Vil: 12 points, 14 rebounds

Matt Sifferlen: 11 points, 5 assists

James Morgan-Thames: 5 steals

A tight-fought battle was eked out at the end by Dean. Northern Essex played well, but couldn't make the big baskets when it counted at the end of the game.

Feb. 4

Mass Bay79

NECC67

Sted Bourdeau: 17 points, 4 assists

Luis Rijo: 17 points

Manny Sanchez: 12 points, 4 rebounds

The Knights played well in the first half, but Mass Bay went on a run to take the lead to 18 at halftime. Northern Essex came out strong in the second half, but couldn't pull any closer than 9 points. The loss puts the Knights on the brink of playoff elimination. Northern Essex has to win its last three games and Mass Bay must lose its final three games for the Knights to qualify for the postseason.