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A Sweet-16 Banner For 2006-07 Owl Men's Basketball Team

KEENE, N.H. 11/29/10 - Keene State College will honor its 2006-07 NCAA tournament Sweet-16 men’s basketball team with a banner ceremony prior to its men’s game against UMass-Boston on Saturday, Dec. 4.

The 2006-07 Owls become the second Keene State College men’s basketball team - joining the 2003-04 Elite-Eight squad - to have a banner dedicated to its memorable season in Spaulding Gym.

The 2006-07 Owls not only tied the program record for wins (25-6), but earned an at-large berth to the NCAA Division III tournament and advanced to the Sweet-16 round. “It was a unique group of players, who brought specific talents to the team,” recalls Coach Rob Colbert. “It worked, and when it didn’t, David (Sontag) would bail us out with a big shot.”

“That season was so special because we were such a tight group. We were always together and like a family,” said Tyler Kathan, who would go on to be named LEC Player of the Year. “Everybody knew their role that year, and our chemistry on and off the court was just great. That year was easily the most fun I have ever had playing basketball and I will never forget that special season with all those guys.”

Comprised of three seniors, six juniors, three sophomores, and three freshmen, the Owls were not only talented, but possessed a lunch-pail work ethic that led to their success. “I remember the intensity we bought to the court and the way we played together,” said Matt Hickey. “Walking off the court after playing a tournament game in California, an official asked, ‘Where are you guys from? We never saw a group of kids play so hard.’”

The 2006-07 season featured several memorable accomplishments and come-from- behind victories. Nick Drouin scored 26 points and was named MVP of the KSC Tip-Off Tournament. Following an 82-78 comeback win over Little East preseason favorite Rhode Island College, the Owls hooked up in a triple-overtime thriller against Tufts. Although KSC lost 118-109, the game demonstrated the team’s resiliency. “That was one of the key games of the season,” said Sontag, who served as team captain along with Matt Adams. “We showed we weren’t going to roll over and would fight to the very end.”

A nine-game mid-season winning streak included a 30-point performance by Drouin, which brought KSC back from an 18-point deficit in an 80-71 win over Bridgewater State and a 33-point, 17-rebound effort by Kathan against Springfield College. “Tyler wasn’t a player who looked to score like that, but if we needed points, he’d always deliver,” said Colbert. “It was fun looking down and pulling him off the bench. I wish I could do that today.”

Kathan, Sontag, and Nate Anderson later became members of KSC’s 1,000-point career club.

Ranked in both national and regional polls, the Owls rallied from a 17-point deficit to defeat Plymouth State (58-57), defeated Williams (92-85), and secured the second-seed in the LEC tournament with a 79-65 victory over Southern Maine.

Keene State defeated Plymouth State (98-86) and UMass-Boston (79-67) in the LEC tournament quarterfinal and semifinal rounds, respectively, before falling to Rhode Island College (87-75) in the finals. Despite the loss, Colbert felt the Owls had a good chance of receiving an at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament. “I felt good about it because we had some marquee wins that year,” he said.

The Owls trounced Rivier College (81-47) in their opening-round NCAA game before a packed Spaulding Gym crowd before moving on to play Salem State in what Colbert called one of his “top games” during his career at KSC. Playing in a hostile environment at Salem State, the Owls were able to hold off the Vikings (76-75), thanks to a put-back basket by Drouin in the closing seconds of play. Salem State raced down the court and scored on a rebound, but the hoop was nullified when it was ruled time had expired. In the mayhem that followed, the Owls had to be escorted out of the gym by several policemen.

“We were yelling and screaming uncontrollably,” said Kevin Ritter. “We had just earned the right to play in the Sweet-16. The adrenaline rush stayed with us for days.”

The Owls’ season came to an end at Amherst College with a tough 75-73 setback to Rhode Island College. Despite the loss, Keene State had every reason to be proud of its 2006-07 season. “I don’t think we overachieved, but I think we were underestimated,” said Colbert.

Colbert said it will be a special moment when the banner is unveiled. “I know that group was conscious of previous NCAA teams’ accomplishments. And this team deserves every bit as many accolades for what they did in their own right,” said Colbert. “In many ways they had a tougher road to go.”

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