Men’s basketball to play historic home quarterfinal on Sunday

March 1, 2024
By Cat Cutillo and Josh Kessler ’04

It’s been 23 years since Saint Michael’s men’s basketball has had a season this spectacular. On Feb. 27, they clinched their final win of the regular season, making them the No. 1 seed in the Northeast-10 (NE10) Conference playoffs. It’s the first time in 23 years that they’ve won the regular season title, seizing 21 wins.  

Darrel Yepdo ’26 (Photo by Jim Laskarzewski)

On Sunday, March 3, they will play in the NE10 Championship quarterfinals, a home game taking place at Saint Michael’s Ross Sports Center at 4:00 p.m.

“It’s been a really fun year for our guys. They put in a ton of work,” men’s basketball Head Coach Eric Eaton said. “I have to give every single ounce of credit to these guys. They have been locked in and have been bringing energy every single day.”

Jhamyl Fricas (Photo by Jim Laskarzewski)

Eaton said the season kicked off during the first week of classes with a 7:00 a.m. five-and-a-half-minute-mile. Every player passed that test. He credits the players for the historic season. In the locker room this week he reminded the players to cherish winning at the college level and honored the sacrifices they had made since last year to get themselves to this point which included spending more time in the gym, getting to bed earlier, and missing nights out with friends or vacations. 

“I’ve always felt as a coach that it’s my responsibility to take ownership of what happened when we lose. All the credit goes to the guys and all their hard work to bring us to where we’re at and having won 21 games at this point this year,” Eaton said. “It’s really special. And I think it’s really special because St. Mike’s is a special place.”

Nolan Marold (Photo by Jim Laskarzewski)

Under Eaton, the Purple Knights have had more wins this season than the last two years combined, not to mention almost as many league victories as the last four seasons total. Saint Michael’s set a school record for three-pointers (296) and sits top-four in the NE10 in such key statistical categories as scoring (77.8), three-point shooting (37.3%), offensive rebounding (11.0), rebounding (37.1) and steals (7.4). 

Senior Romar Reid leads the way in scoring (16.6) while turning in 2.7 assists and 1.3 steals, and sophomore Darrel Yepdo averages 15.6 points behind 40.3% three-point shooting with 3.8 helpers and 1.9 steals. Junior CJ Crews turns in 12.1 points exclusively as a reserve, burying 2.4 threes per game while adding 1.8 assists and 1.4 steals. Sophomore Nolan Marold turns in 10.1 points on 55.9% shooting with 7.2 boards, 2.8 offensive rebounds and 1.1 blocks.  

Sophomore Alan Brzezinski notches 8.5 points on 38.5% three-point shooting with 5.0 rebounds, junior reserve Jhamyl Fricas adds 8.3 points on 42.5% shooting, and classmate Jake Duniver collects 7.4 points on 40.6% accuracy from distance and 6.1 rebounds.

Romar Reid (Photo by Jim Laskarzewski)

Eaton arrived at St. Mike’s five years ago as a first-time head coach. He had been coaching for 22 years and spent 18 years as an assistant coach for Division I schools. He grew up in Worcester, MA, and played high school and prep school basketball and Division III basketball at UMass Dartmouth. He started his career teaching in public schools but soon realized he could make a career out of coaching. 

“The game has brought everything in my life,” Eaton said. “A lot of people that are close to me in my life I met through the game, including my wife.”  

Basketball is a central part of his home life too. His twin sons, Owen and Evan, are juniors at Rice Memorial High School and are starting backcourt players for the team, who will play in the Vermont Division I state championship game this week. His wife, Alexis, played college basketball at Assumption University. 

“I love the game. I love to compete,” Eaton said. “I’m just a competitive person and this gave me the opportunity to do that.”  

Men’s basketball head coach Eric Eaton (Photo by Jim Laskarzewski)

He said the most impressionable response this season has been a surplus of “thank you” text messages and emails from former players and alums who are following the season. 

“It makes me proud to see them excited about what we’re doing so I think that’s really been the most impactful thing,” Eaton said. “The other thing is hearing the noise and hearing the people in our stands…the atmosphere in a college basketball game is really special. So to create that here in a place like this where it has been like that before and bring it back has been pretty gratifying.” 

In fact, the men’s swim team showed up twice to support the men’s basketball team wearing just their speedos and goggles.

Men’s swimming & diving cheering on men’s basketball (photo by Jim Laskarzewski)

Eaton is hoping that even more students will come out to watch Sunday’s quarterfinal home game. 

 “It’s a fun atmosphere. It’s really about Saint Michael’s. It’s not (just) about basketball,” Eaton said. “I think that’s something that we can build on to keep our tight community.” 

As the No. 1 seed, the Purple and Gold has earned the right to host all of its NE10 Championship contests. If Saint Michael’s advances, the semifinals would take place on Wednesday, March 6 before the title tilt is set for Saturday, March 9.  

Cheer on Saint Michael’s men’s basketball during the NE10 Championship quarterfinals on Sunday, March 3, at Saint Michael’s Ross Sports Center at 4:00 p.m. Sunday’s WHITE OUT game means that all Saint Michael’s students wearing white will get free Domino’s Pizza at half time!

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