Alex Sobel's free throw with .3 seconds on the clock gave #4 Middlebury an 88-87 win over New England College in a back-and-forth game in Pepin Gym on Friday evening. The Panthers (8-0) return to action at Stevens on Sunday with a 1:00 p.m. start, while the Pilgrims (4-4) visit Northern Vermont-Johnson on Tuesday for a 4:00 p.m. contest.
NEC led 21-15 before a quick 5-0 spurt, capped by a three from Perry DeLorenzo made it a one-point game (21-20) at the 12:00 mark. The Pilgrims later extended the lead to six, with Jack Farrell answering for the hosts to cut the margin to 36-32 with 4:29 remaining in the first half. NEC scored the next five points to go up 41-32 at 2:51, before the Panthers closed the first half on an 11-0 run. A three from DeLorenzo and a buzzer beater by Max Bosco proved the spark that put the hosts up 43-41 at the break, their first lead since 2-0.
A back-and-forth second half saw the Panthers go on top 75-69 when Will Ingram capped a 5-0 run at the 6:55 mark. Michael Tavilla answered with a three for the Pilgrims, with Farrell responding from long range on the other end of the floor, putting his team up 78-72 with 6:17 on the clock. NEC came back with a 6-0 run, tying the game at 78-78 on a bucket from Izaiah Winston-Brook.
In the final minutes, Sobel converted at 1:23 to put the hosts up 86-85. The Pilgrims later had the ball, trailing by one when Sobel came up with a huge steal with 11 seconds on the clock. Farrell was later fouled and made 1-2, as did Winston-Brooks on the other end of the floor to tie the game at 87-87 with three seconds remaining. The Panthers inbounded the ball following a timeout, and after a miss, Sobel was fouled in the rebounding action and converted 1-2 with .3 seconds on the clock to give Middlebury the victory.
Sobel finished with a career-high 24 points, tying a school record with 8-8 shooting from the floor. He also grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds in the win. Max Bosco netted 22 for the Panthers, Farrell finished with 19 points and four assists, while Matt Folger scored seven with nine boards. With his seven points, Folger continued to climb the all-time scoring list at Middlebury, moving from 19th to 17th with 1,038 points.
Winston-Brooks tied a game high 24 points for NEC, to go along with six rebounds and four assists. Calvin Cheek added 19 points, seven rebounds and four steals, while Tavilla netted 16.
Middlebury held a 44-31 advantage on the boards as both teams were red-hot from the floor. The Panthers finished the game converting 47.1 percent of its shots while the Pilgrim connected on 50.8 percent.