NEW LONDON, Conn. – Led by senior Kevin Alvarez, Coast Guard topped archrival Merchant Marine 88-80 in Merriman Gymnasium on Wednesday night.
With the win, the Bears improve to 6-1 while the Mariners drop to 3-4 on the season. This is the best start for Coast Guard since the 2007-08 team started off the season 9-0 on their way to a 24-7 record and a trip to the Elite Eight.
Alvarez had a team-high 25 points and nine rebounds. Sophomore Micah Baldez had his first career double double with 13 points and ten rebounds scoring all of his points in the second half. Sophomore Darius Adams came off the bench to score 14 points and a career high five steals while senior Ricky Rodriguez chipped in 11 points.
Senior Preston Padgett had a game high 26 points draining eight three pointers for the Mariners. Senior David Smith added 12 points with seven rebounds while junior Hunter Jones scored 12 points with three assists. Matt Miller finished the night with ten points and four rebounds.
Merchant Marine ran out to a quick 4-0 lead in the opening minutes as Jones and Miller both scored with just a little over a minute off the clock.
For the rest of the first half neither team could take more than a four point lead as there were six ties and seven lead changes with the teams went into the locker room tied at 41. The Bear's bench did the most damage in the first period outscoring the Mariner's bench 21-7.
With just under 15 minutes to go in the second half Coast Guard took their biggest lead of the night as a basket by Adams gave the Bears a six point lead at 53-47.
Coast Guard would extend their lead to seven after Rodriguez was fouled on a deep two and made the free throw to complete the three point play putting the score at 65-58 with 8:03 left in the game.
The Bears continued to press pushing their lead to 13 after two free throws from Baldez made the score 78-65 with 5:47 on the clock.
Merchant Marine did not go away quietly as they trimmed Coast Guard's lead to four at 84-80 with 28 seconds left in the half as Padgett nailed his eighth three pointer of the game. The Bear's however finished off the game scoring the final four points giving Coast Guard an 88-80 win.
"It was a great team effort tonight and we needed it. They got a great performance by Preston Padgett," said Coast Guard head coach Kevin Jaskiewicz. "I was really impressed at how our guys took control of the second half and continued to push the pace.
"Kevin Alvarez was terrific tonight, Micah Baldez recorded his first double-double and Darius Adams with a great game off the bench as we outscored their bench 40-16 and that was a key for us," added Jaskiewicz. "We are happy to get the win, happy to be 6-1. To play four games in seven days is tough, but to win four games in seven days is really remarkable and we are looking forward to building on it going down to the tournament in Tampa and getting ready for the second half of the season."
Coast Guard shot 24-58 (41.4%) from the floor and 45.5% (5-11) from beyond the arc. The bench came through in a big way for the Bears as they outscored the Mariners bench 40-16.
Merchant Marine shot 38.4% (28-73) overall and 12-35(34.3%) from three. The Mariners held a slight advantage in blocked shots 6-2.
This was the first victory for Coast Guard over Merchant Marine since 2011-12 season when the Bear's beat the Mariners 85-77.
With the victory, Coast Guard takes a 4-3 lead after being down 3-0 to start of the year in the race for the Superintendents Trophy.
The Bears are back in action on December 29th at the Tampa Bay Shootout where they will play DePauw. Tip will be 5:00 pm.