PAXTON, Mass – Thursday night the AMCATS hosted the Norwich University Cadets in the Fuller Center. In the All-Time conference series between the two teams Anna Maria held a 10-2 advantage of their Vermont opponent. Thursday night the Cadets grabbed their third win in that series as they held off a late AMCAT push to head back North with the 89-84 victory.
For the AMCATS, five players, including two bench players, reached double-digit points in the high scoring affair. Sophomore forward Mike Rapoza (Charlton, Mass) led the way with 21 points, also pulling down a game-high 12 rebounds for his fourteenth double-double of the season. Mike shot nine-of-14 from the field and was three-for-three from the charity stripe. With 17 points on the evening, senior guard Liam Pickett (Oxford, Mass), shot eight-of-17 from the field, pulled down five rebounds and added three assists to his score line. Senior forward Kenny Graham (West Haven, Conn) added 12 points to the final tally. Graham grabbed seven caroms, dished out six assists and took the ball away from the Cadets three times on the evening. Coming off the bench, scoring 12 points each were junior guard Sidney Limage (Randolph, Mass) and freshman guard Ralph Grasso, Jr. (Marlborough, Mass). Limage was six-of-eight from the field, grabbed seven boards and blocked four shots for the 'Cats. Grasso's 12 points, just shy of his career high 13 points he scored in the season opener, was impressive as all of his points came from three-pointers. He shot four-for-seven from beyond the arch. The facilitator of the night award goes to senior guard Chris Contento (Marshfield, Mass) who handed out seven assists in the game.
On the other end of the floor, the Cadets had two players over 20 points on the night. Leading all scorers, senior guard Zygamanta Sirvydas (Silale, Lithuania) scored 25 points on nine-of-14 shooting. He was tied for the Norwich team lead in rebounds with five. Joining Sirvydas in the 20-point club was freshman guard Jesse Davis (Woodinville, Wash) who came off the bench and scored 23 for his team. Senior forward Joe Bertrand (Saugus, Mass) who was a late addition to the Cadet starting lineup scored 17 points in the game. He was six-of-13 shooting, 11 of those shots coming from beyond the arch, of which he sunk five.
The first half started the way the game finish, fast paced. Both teams took their chances early, the AMCATS striking first with a three pointer from Jakola 25 seconds in. Though this wasn't the only lead the 'Cats would hold in the first few minutes the Cadets would take their first lead at the 17:39 mark of the first half on a Sirvydas three-pointer, and essentially didn't look back. With nine minutes gone, Norwich had extended their lead to 10 points. With back-to-back scores from Grasso and Rapoza, AMC was able to get back within five less than a minute later, and then cut it to two points on a three-point play from Rapoza. For the next few minutes Anna Maria kept pace with the Cadets keeping the deficit minimal. After consecutive threes for Norwich their lead jumped back out to 10 and then 15 with four minutes to play. AMC was able to cut it back to 10 with twenty seconds to play on two made free throws by Graham. At the break, the Cadets held a 10-point, 54-44 advantage.
Coming out of the break Sirvydas took control of the Norwich offense, scoring six of the Cadet's nine points in the first two and a half minutes of the half, a 9-2 run for NU. Anna Maria was looking at a 17-point deficit with just over 11 minutes to play in regulation when the offensive motor kicked in and after multiple threes from Grasso and a couple free throws from Rapoza, the 'Cats had cut the Norwich lead to five, 76-71 with four minutes to play. The teams went back and forth for the next couple of minutes. With the help of two Cadet threes and consecutive misses by the hosts, the visitors were back up by nine at the 2:19 mark. The next minute was the Liam Pickett show, as he found himself wide open for two threes and got his team back within four. From here, the AMCATS had to foul to send Norwich to the line. Sirvydas would miss the front end of his one-and-one but get the ball back on an AMC turnover. Grasso would give away a foul and again, Sirvydas missed the front end of the charity trip, this time the 'Cats would go down the other end and by the hand of Pickett, make the score 86-84 with seven seconds to play. In those seven seconds, Anna Maria would again need to foul. This time sending Davis to the line where he would make his first and extend the lead to three. Davis would miss the second shot but get his own rebound as the ball bounced around, forcing Anna Maria to give away another foul and Davis another shot at the line. He would make both shots with three seconds remaining to put the finishing touches on the Cadet's 89-84 GNAC victory over the AMCATS.
Up next for the AMCATS will be a trip to Providence, R.I. to take on Johnson & Wales on Saturday evening at 5pm.
Click Here for a look at the box score from Thursday's game.