Stonehill Stuns Division I Fairfield, 61-60

Senior Mike Kernan notched a double-double with game-high totals of 19 points and 13 rebounds tonight at Fairfield. (PHOTO BY Richard Orr) 

Kernan double-double leads Skyhawks to exhibition win over MAAC preseason favorites

 BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (November 8, 2010) – Stonehill College, defending regular season champions of the Northeast-10 Conference, posted a 61-60 victory over Division I Fairfield University, preseason favorites in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, in an exhibition men's basketball matchup at the Arena at Harbor Yard tonight.

Stonehill has been picked fifth in the Northeast-10's preseason coaches' poll, while Fairfield, coached by former Stonehill player and assistant coach, Ed Cooley, '94, earned six of the ten first place votes in the MAAC preseason coaches' poll and are picked first in the Conference in every major preseason college basketball publication. The Skyhawks avenged a 71-60 loss to the Stags in an exhibition here last year. Fairfield is ranked tenth in the Mid-Major Top 25 poll after posting a 23-11 record last season before falling in the MAAC Championship game to Siena College.

Senior forward Mike Kernan (Medford, N.J./Shawnee) led Stonehill to victory with a double-double effort with game-high's of 19 points, on 8-of-13 shooting from the field, and 13 rebounds to go with two blocked shots. Classmate Daniel Heppert (Richmond, Va./Benedictine) pulled down ten rebounds to go with nine points, on 2-of-3 shooting from the floor, draining his lone three-point attempt, while making 4-of-6 free-throws. Sophomore Brian Hamor (Guilderland, N.Y./Bishop Gibbons) posted nine points off the bench, canning 2-of-4 three pointers, while junior Ivan Almeida (Praia, Cape Verde) filled the stat sheet with six points, five rebounds, five assists and four blocked shots. Classmate Patrick Lee (Fayetteville, N.Y./Fayetteville-Manlius) chipped in eight points.

Senior Warren Edney (Vienna, Va./James Madison) led Fairfield with 18 points on 6-of-9 shooting from the field, including 1-for-2 from three-point range, while converting 5-of-7 free-throws to go with five rebounds and three assists. Sophomore Derek Needham (Dolton, Ill./De La Salle) added 14 points, five assists and four rebounds, while classmate Colin Nickerson (Waukegan, Ill./Waukegan) finished with 11 points and three steals.

Senior Daniel Heppert nearly posted a double-double, finishing with ten rebounds and nine points on the night. (PHOTO BY Richard Orr)

Stonehill finished shooting 47.8-percent (22-for-46) from the field, including 5-for-10 (50%) from three-point range, and out-rebounded Fairfield by a 39-34 margin. The Stags were held to 33.3% (19-57) shooting, including 6-of-17 (35.3%) from beyond the arc, and were unable to take advantage of 23 Skyhawk turnovers. Stonehill shot 57.1% (12-21) from the field in the second half, including 3-for-5 (60%) from deep.

A 6-1 run put Stonehill up six (57-51) after a pair of Heppert free-throws with 4:05 to play in regulation. Fairfield made one last run, forging the eighth tie of the contest (59-59) after a conventional three-point play by Edney with 1:47 to play. Nickerson made one of two at the line after a Stonehill turnover to put the Stags up one (60-59) with 1:12 remaining – just their fourth lead of the game, but Heppert was fouled with 44-seconds left and drained both of his attempts to put the Skyhawks back in front.

Heppert snared the rebound after a Fairfield miss with 12-seconds left, but a turnover gave the Stags another chance for the win. Edney had a shot blocked by Kernan and Heppert grabbed another rebound with five seconds to go, but missed both free-throws, to hand the hosts a final opportunity in the closing seconds. Needham's three-pointer at the buzzer was off the mark, however, to give Stonehill a big win heading into its regular season opener on Friday.

Stonehill never trailed by more than two points all night, answering an opening bucket on Fairfield's first possession with five-straight points just two minutes into the game. The Skyhawks led by seven (17-10) after a Lee layup with 8:44 to play in the first half, but the Stags rallied to knot the score at halftime (24-24).

Fairfield held a pair of two-point leads early in the second half, but Stonehill reeled off a 9-2 run to open another seven point cushion (40-33) after a Sam Markle (Bethany, Conn./Saint Thomas More) three-pointer with 14:03 to play. Markle had the last five points during that stretch, while Almeida added four points.

Stonehill opens the regular season this weekend when it hosts the Stonehill Tip-Off Classic at Merkert Gymnasium on Friday and Saturday. The Skyhawks will open against Caldwell College on Friday at 7 p.m., before taking on LIU-C.W. Post on Saturday at 3 p.m. The event opens with Saint Michael's College, coached by former assistant Michael Harding, facing C.W. Post on Friday at 5 p.m. Fairfield opens its regular season on Saturday against Sacred Heart University at Mohegan Sun Arena at 4 p.m.