AMHERST, MASS. – Senior JP Reagan (Cortland) scored 18 points off the bench and senior T.J. Hefele (Greenlawn/Friends Academy) and sophomore James Morales (Mount Kisco/Fox Lane) each tallied 12 points as Cortland defeated WPI, 69-50, in the opening round of the NCAA Div. III playoffs at Amherst College's LeFrak Gymnasium.
Cortland (21-7) will face Amherst in the second round Saturday at 7 p.m. at Amherst. WPI closes the season with a 20-7 record. The teams were facing each other for the first time ever.
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Reagan made 7-of-10 shots from the floor, 2-of-4 from 3-point range, and added five rebounds, two assists and two blocks. Hefele scored 10 of his 12 points in the first half to help the Red Dragons take a 33-22 halftime lead. He finished shooting 5-of-8 from the floor and led the team with six rebounds and two assists. Morales went 4-of-6 from the field, 2-of-4 from long distance, and recorded a team-high three steals.
Clyde Niba led WPI with 15 points and eight rebounds and Ian Converse scored 11 points and dished out three assists.
Cortland shot 50 percent from the field overall and hit 9-of-30 shots from the arc. The Engineers finished the game shooting 35 percent overall and 23 percent (5-of-22) from 3-point distance.
The Red Dragons went on a 13-0 run that turned a 6-5 deficit into an 18-6 lead in the game's first 10 minutes. Hefele hit two 3-pointers and Reagan made one during that stretch. WPI got back to within 20-17 on a Converse 3-point play with 7:52 left in the half, but Cortland scored the next seven points to push the lead back to double figures. Blair Estarfaa (Buffalo/Maryvale), who finished with eight points, made a 3-pointer during that run.
Cortland led 33-22 at halftime and quickly pushed the lead to 16 on a Hefele layup and a Dre Hampton (Bronx/Frederick Douglass Academy) 3-pointer in the first minute and a half of the second period. WPI eventually got back as close as 10 on Niba's jumper with 11:55 remaining, but the Red Dragons answered with two Shayne Martinez (West Haverstraw/North Rockland) free throws, a Morales 3-pointer and a Reagan jumper to go up 46-29 with 9:36 left. The lead was at least 14 points the rest of the way and grew as large as 24 in the final two minutes.
Cortland has now won the opening game in each of its last five NCAA tournament appearances, with the last three first-round wins coming against Massachusetts schools. The Red Dragons beat Elms at home in 2013 before losing to Middlebury in the second round, and Cortland defeated UMass Boston at home in 2006 before falling to Tufts in the second round.
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