Senior guard Stefan Thompson scored a game-high 23 points to lead top-seeded Hobart College to a 77-72 victory over fourth-seeded Skidmore College in the semifinals of the Liberty League Championship Tournament. The Statesmen shot 58.7 percent from the floor and weathered a 3-point barrage from the Thoroughbreds to return to the title game for the second year in a row.
Hobart secured its third consecutive 20-win season, improving to 20-6 with the victory. The Statesmen connected on 27-of-46 shots (58.7%), including five 3-pointers, and went 18-of-23 at the free throw line.
Thompson was 8-of-17 with a pair of triples and dished out a team-high five assists. He was joined in double figures by junior Joe Gibbons, sophomore Connor Rehbaum, and senior Rezin Davis. Gibbons was 5-of-7 shooting and converted all six of his freebies for 16 points. Rehbaum turned in his second double-double of the year on 16 points and a game-high 10 rebounds. Davis chipped in 10 points, all in the first half.
Skidmore slips to 15-11 after making 24-of-50 shots (48%). The Thoroughbreds made half of their 22 3-point tries and missed only one of 14 free throw attempts.
Four Skidmore players reached double digits led by first-year Tanner Brooks’ 22 points. He was 8-of-15 from the floor with four 3-pointers. Classmate Aldin Medunjanin added 21 points on 6-of-13 shooting with two 3s and a 7-of-8 effort at the line. He also handed out a game-high eight assists. Sophomore Connor Merrill and senior Sakhile Sithole each contributed 12 points.
Hobart built an eight-point lead early in the game, only to have Skidmore use a 13-4 run to take a 22-21 lead. Sithole sandwiched a pair of treys around a 3 from Brooks to spark the surge. An 11-2 run by Hobart, jump-started by a pair of long range baskets from Davis, gave the home team the largest lead of the game, 38-29, with 2:12 left in the opening half. Brooks scored five of the half’s final seven points, leaving the Statesmen a 40-34 halftime lead.
The Thoroughbreds opened the second half on a 10-4 run that tied the game at 44-all with 15:49 remaining. From that point on, neither team led by more than five points. A traditional three-point play by Sithole with 3:25 left put Skidmore in front 65-64. Eighteen seconds later, Gibbons stepped to the line and made two shots to put Hobart back in front for good.
After Brooks misfired on a triple, senior Sean Peer grabbed the rebound leading to a layup by junior Richie Bonney for a 68-65 lead. Medunjanin sank two free throws at the 2:04 mark to make it a 1-point game. Rehbaum missed a 3 for Hobart and junior Eli Johnston grabbed the rebound for Skidmore. Merrill missed a layup that would have put his team in front at the 1:21 mark. It was the final look at the basket the visitor’s got with a chance to take the lead.
Rehbaum’s old fashion 3-point play with 46.4 seconds left put the Statesmen up four, 71-67. From there, Hobart closed out the win by making its final six free throws, two by Thompson and the final four by Gibbons.
Hobart has won a school record 12 consecutive games. The Statesmen also own an 11-game home court wins streak, the program’s longest since 2000-01.
The Statesmen will attempt to win their first conference tournament championship since 2001, on Saturday, Feb. 23, when Hobart hosts third-seeded Rensselaer (17-9). Tipoff in Bristol Gym is scheduled for 3 p.m.
The Engineers advanced to the championship game by upsetting No. 2 Union 85-77.