Raiders enjoy the Midnight Madness, 68-62
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By TOM KING
NASHUA - The jam-packed Vagge Gym on the campus of Daniel Webster College late Wednesday night into Thursday morning showed there was indeed a method to the Midnight Madness for a men's basketball season opener.
But Rivier University had the best way to deal with the aura of the big event - win. The Raiders gutted out a 68-62 victory by out-rebounding the host Eagles, 50-36, and shooting 50 percent from beyond the 3-point line in the first half en route to a 39-27 lead at intermission.
The concept of being the first teams in Division III in the nation to begin their season was a smashing success, with a historic crowd of 511, the most ever in DWC basketball and Vagge history, showing up. But the Raiders kept their cool.
"To be honest with you, it felt like a playoff game tonight," Rivier junior Mike Polley, a Nashua South alum, said. "It was just amazing. You can't even describe the feeling it is to go out there and be on the court with all the fans there, and just be in the zone, it was crazy.
"We kept the lead the whole game. The game's all about runs and fighting through that adversity."
The Raiders got 14 points from Brian Troy, who shot 4-for-8 from 3-point range. Kywane Thomas added 11. Down 10-6 early, a 13-0 run ended up giving the Raiders a lead that they would never relinquish. It got as high as 14 in the second half before the Eagles, spurred by Dave Feinstein's game-high 18 points, came as close as four late.
The Eagles cut it to 61-57 with 2:57 left after a Feinstein layup, but a 5-0 Raider run, with Troy and Tom Poitras hitting big buckets, helped seal things at 66-57 with 44 seconds left.
"At times it was ugly, but I thought we defended and rebounded real well," said Riv coach Dave Morissette, who last spring first mentioned the season-opening midnight concept. "Then we went on a run. It was just two teams early in the season."
"It was one idea, and it was the execution of both schools to be committed to it and try it," Eagles coach Dave Faucher said. "They shot the ball better than I expected. They were 7-for-14 (from beyond the 3-point line) in the first half, that's how they got the lead, that hurt.
"We became unglued a little too easy, especially at home."
Also for the Eagles, Darius Crosby had 13 points but was shut out in the second half while Nashua North alum Ryan Gauthier was held to four points in the game, unable to elevate thanks to his recovering from a groin injury.
Gauthier likened the atmosphere to a Nashua North-South game.
"They were two different games," he said. "I was feeling it in that (North-South game a year ago), but in this one I couldn't put the ball in the hoop."
Factoring in the atmosphere, it was win-win for Rivier. For the Eagles, one out of two was going to have to be good enough.