WALTHAM, Mass. – On the first day of action at the 2012 New England Big Four Challenge, Brandeis and Salem State both had some big individual performances to lead their squads into tomorrow's title match. In the opener, Salem State senior point guard Justin Nieves (Lawrence, Mass./Lawrence) had 22 points, while classmate Nate Simpson (Lowell, Mass./Lowell) had 14 points and 17 rebounds as the Vikings defeated Babson, 80-69. In the nightcap, Brandeis junior point guard Gabriel Moton (St. Petersburg, Fla./St. Petersburg) had his first collegiate double-double with 28 points and 10 rebounds, along with four assists, to guide the Judges past Tufts, 84-69.
The Brandeis-Tufts game featured six ties and nine lead changes, but the hosts were able to pull away late. The Judges owned a 60-57 lead with 9:06 on the clock when Moton caught fire. He hit a 3-pointer at the 8:29 mark and went on to score 10 of Brandeis's next 12 points over a four-minute span, igniting a 22-6 run that put the game away.
Moton scored 11 points on 4-of-6 shooting in the first half, but really caught fire in the second. He hit his first six shots, including both 3-pointers during the key run, to finish the half 6-of-7 from the field. He also hit 3-of-4 from the line in the second stanza. Moton added six rebounds and two assists in the second half to finish with Brandeis's first double-double of the season.
Two other Brandeis players scored in double figures in the game, with junior Alex Stoyle (Goffstown, N.H./Tilton School) notching a career-high 14 points and grabbing eight rebounds. Junior center Youri Dascy (Fall River, Mass./St. Andrew's School, R.I.) added 11 points. The Judges owned a 23-10 scoring margin from the free-throw line, taking advantage of two Tufts technical fouls and an intentional foul. The Brandeis second-half defense was also outstanding, holding the Jumbos to just 39% shooting (12-31) after allowing 54% (15-28) in the first.
Tufts had two players score in double figures, led by senior forward Scott Anderson's (Sudbury, Mass./Middlesex School) 21 points on 8-of-12 from the floor. Anderson matched Moton's game-high with 11 first-half points. He also had four rebounds and a game-high three steals. Sophomore C.J. Moss (Westport, Mass./Taft School) was the only other Jumbo player in double figures with 10 points.
In the Salem State-Babson opener, eight different players scored in double figures between the two squads. The Vikings had two top individual performances of the game from Nieves and Simpson. Fourteen of Nieves' 22 points came in the first half. SSU shot a scorching 59% (13-22) in the first en route to a 41-33 lead at the break, and they never trailed in the second half. Nieves connected on 7-of-14 from the field - 5-of-7 in the first – along with 3-of-5 from downtown and 5-of-7 from the line. Simpson, meanwhile, had eight points and eight rebounds in the first half and six points and nine caroms in the second. He finished 5-of-8 from the floor with a pair of 3-pointers and two free throws. Simpson's 17 boards helped the Vikings to a 47-37 rebounding advantage.
SSU also got 11 points each from senior guard Tavone Wynder (Boston, Mass./Newton South) and sophomore Hanell Velez (Woburn, Mass./SNHU). Velez's 11 points came from the bench, matching the entire output of the Babson reserves. As a whole, the Vikings won the battle of the benches, 22-11.
Babson was paced by senior Russell Braithwaite (Brooklyn, N.Y./St. Mark's School), who had 16 points, while sophomore forward John Wickey (Manchester, N.H./Manchester Central) had 13. The two combined for 23 points in the first half, however, and just six in the second, all from Braithwaite. Wickey and Braithwaite also topped the Beavers with six rebounds each, along with senior reserve Peter Foley (Wells, Maine/Cheverus).
Rookie guard Travis Sheldon (Woodstock, N.Y./Milton Acad.) and junior guard Matt Palazini (Franklin, Mass./Franklin) had 10 points each. Sheldon also led the Beavers with four assists.
Brandeis and Salem State will meet in the championship game tomorrow at 3 p.m. It will be the first meeting between the two in the title match as the Judges attempt to win the New England Big Four Challenge for the third time in four years. Salem State will be looking for its first title as the two teams battle for the Crotty Cup, named after Middlesex Magic AAU founder Mike Crotty, Sr. Babson and Tufts will meet at 1 p.m. in the consolation match.