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Wagner knocks off top-seeded Merrimack, takes NEC championship with 54-47 victory

NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. (AP) — Tahron Allen scored 22 points and No. 6 seed Wagner allowed only four points in the final eight minutes of a 54-47 victory over top-seeded Merrimack on Tuesday night in the championship game of the Northeast Conference Tournament.

The Seahawks advance to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2003.

After losing four of five to finish the regular season, Wagner defeated Central Connecticut in the semifinals and Merrimack in the championship game. The Blue Devils and Warriors tied for first place in the conference, with Merrimack landing the top seed in the tournament.

After winning last season's conference tournament in their last season of transition to Division I, the Warriors were looking to repeat and advance to the NCAA Tournament for the first time. Still, they trailed by 11 points on their home floor after Allen hit a 3-pointer for a 41-30 lead with less than 13 minutes remaining.

The Warriors responded with 13 consecutive points, Bryan Etumnu's 3-pointer giving them a 43-41 lead with about eight minutes left in the game.

Three minutes later, Javier Ezquerra and Melvin Council Jr. hit back-to-back jumpers and Wagner led 46-43. Allen scored to give the Seahawks a five-point lead and he added two free throws with 70 seconds left to make it 51-45.

The Warriors launched three 3-pointers on their next possession and missed them all, before Jordan McKoy was fouled and made both free throws with 25 seconds left. Merrimack fouled Javier Ezquerra and he made two free throws for a 53-47 lead at 21 seconds. Devon Savage missed another 3-pointer for Merrimack and the game was out of reach.

Savage had 16 points and McKoy 11 for Merrimack (21-12).

Council had 12 points and Keyontae Lewis grabbed 12 rebounds for Wagner (16-15).

Wagner, eighth nationally allowing 62.6 points per game, shut down Merrimack on the perimeter. The Warriors made only 10 of 38 3-pointers and shot 30% overall. The Seahawks hit 45% of their shots.

Wagner matched the Mount St. Mary's Mountaineers of 1999 as the only teams seeded sixth or worse to win the NEC Tournament.

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