WORCESTER - The ball seemed to be always in Brian Hamor’s steady hands.
Whether he was making his way up court with poise against fullcourt pressure, or penetrating and kicking the ball out for an open trey.
Or confidently stepping back to swish a fallaway 3-pointer of his own, such as his clutch trey with 4:30 left that handed Stonehill a 5-point cushion in Tuesday night’s NCAA Division 2 East Regional final at Assumption’s Laska Gymnasium.
Or even when he was knocked to the floor with 5.6 seconds left and knocked down two clinching free throws. All of which resulted in a hard-earned 75-70 Stonehill victory over Bloomfield and the program’s first trip to the Elite 8 since 2006.
The Skyhawks (24-8) will take on third-ranked West Liberty (32-2) in a national quarterfinal March 22 in Highland Heights, Ky.
Hamor is the not the quickest player or the strongest. But as Stonehill coach Dave McLaughlin said, “His basketball IQ is off the charts, and I can’t remember a day in the last year in which he hasn’t picked up a basketball.’’
The 6-foot-2-inch junior from Schenectady, N.Y., was on the court last March at Bentley, scoring 13 points, when Bloomfield bounced Stonehill in the regional semis, 79-66, on its way to the title.
In the rematch, Hamor poured in 16 of his team-high 20 points in the second half - burying three of his five 3-point attempts, and handing out four assists. It capped a sensational three games for Hamor, who doused the University of District Columbia with 26 points in the quarterfinals and tossed in 21 more against Adelphi in the semifinals.
His focus, though, was on his teammates, and the accomplishment.
“It’s amazing that we’re going to the Elite 8, we have such great chemistry on this team,’’ he said. “We get along great off the court, our bench was huge.’’
He pointed to two big threes from sophomore guard Mitch Amelio in the first half. He praised the tremendous night off the bench from junior forward Raheem May-Thompson (7 of 11, 15 points) and junior guard Adam Fazzini (11 points).
“Just a total team effort,’’ he added.
With seven players seeing at least 23 minutes, the Skyhawks needed all of their grit, depth, and experience to withstand a second-half surge from feisty Bloomfield (26-8), which would not go away, rallying from a 13-point deficit to a 58-58 deadlock with 5:45 left. Freshman guard Marvin Williams (28 points) was more than a handful.
But senior Andre Tongo finished off a give-and-go with freshman center Jack Cole and Hamor swished one trey and then another for a 66-59 margin, putting the Skyhawks in command for good with 2:43.
“He’s a winner,’’ said McLaughlin. “And he’s really grown into his role as a leader.’’Craig Larson can be reached at email@example.com.