PROVIDENCE, R.I. (2/23/17) -- For the first time since 2008, the third-seeded Lasell College men's basketball team will play for a Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) championship as it overcame a 15-point deficit and scored 45 second-half points en route to a 68-61 win over second-seeded Johnson & Wales on Thursday night at the Wildcat Center.
The Lasers improve to 19-8 on the season with their sixth straight win, while the Wildcats close the season at 15-12 after losing for the third time in four games.
Senior John Powell (Ashland, Mass.) scored 22 points on 10-of-16 shooting to lead Lasell, while sophomore Tim Blair (Newington, Conn.) added 20 ― including six from three-point range and 16 in the second half ― and dished out a team-high five assists.
Additionally, senior Yordan Villalon (Miami, Fla.) also reached double digits, scoring 14 points while grabbing 18 rebounds for the second consecutive game.
In defeat, senior Anthony Jernigan (East Hartford, Conn.) scored a game-high 26 points on four of the Wildcats' seven threes while recording nine rebounds, five assists, a steal and a block. No other JWU starter had more than five points, while sophomore Elijah Lewis (Bridgeport, Conn.) scored eight points in 24 minutes off the bench.
Jernigan knocked down a pair of threes as the Wildcats started the game on a six-point run, but Lasell responded a bit later in the opening half with Powell providing all of the team's offense with eight points in a 12-point stretch, ultimately tying the game at 20-20 with 5:32 remaining. The hosts built a 35-23 lead at intermission after Jernigan scored six more of his 19 first-half points in a 15-3 stretch to end the half.
The Lasers came to life in the second half, holding a 45-26 scoring advantage while shooting 47.1 percent from the field. Junior Edson Dascy (Fall River, Mass.) lifted JWU to a 15-point advantage just 15 seconds into the second half, but Lasell scored 11 of the next 13 points from there to move within a six-point window.
After junior Michael Kiser (Pike Road, Ala.) put JWU up 42-34 just past the five-minute mark of the second half, Lasell stormed back again and took a 43-42 lead on a Powell layup with 11:42 to play. Junior Ryan Jones (Weymouth, Mass.) started that spurt of two-plus minutes over which Powell scored five points and Blair also canned two.
JWU responded with a positive run its way, building up to a 52-45 lead with 8:30 to play. Powell added a layup less than a minute later to bring Lasell closer before the Wildcats used three free throws to go ahead 55-47.
From there, junior Derek McMahon (Hatfield, Mass.) ignited a 10-0 run in Lasell's way. Villalon hit two consecutive shots to draw Lasell within two, while Powell tied the game with a jumper with 4:37 to play and Jones laid in a go-ahead basket at the 3:28 mark.
The Wildcats clawed back to two separate three-point and two-point leads in the final three minutes, but Lasell closed the game with nine straight points to seal the win. Blair hit a couple threes to begin that stretch, including the winner with 92 seconds to play. Villalon, Blair and sophomore Joe O'Brien (Saugus, Mass.) also added free throws down the stretch.
With the win, Lasell advances to face top-seeded Albertus Magnus College in the GNAC title game on Saturday, February 25. Tip time in New Haven, Conn., is set for 1:00 p.m.