By Ted Waddell
LOCH SHELDRAKE March 6, 2001 In a tournament series performance that was called "lousy" by their coach and "they played like the 'Night of the Living Dead'" by their athletic director, the Generals of Sullivan County Community College (SCCC) managed despite themselves to take the Region XV Tournament trophy and are headed off to the upcoming National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division III battle at SUNY-Delhi on March 15-17.
The local community college hosted the March 2-4 Region XV tourney, and it played well before a good crowd. By taking the tournament title, the Generals are poised for an attempt to win their fourth NJCAA title.
The top-seeded hometown Generals cruised to an easy 69-55 victory in their opening game against the Generals of Technical Career Institutes (TCI) on Friday night at the Paul Gerry Fieldhouse.
The SCCC Generals carried a 34-22 halftime lead into the locker room. TCI's Andrew Joseph was the game's high scorer with 25. Double digit hoopsters for SCCC: Justin Dawson (13), Dereck Rankin (11) and Shiron Brown (10).
Stats from the three throw line: SCCC 17/30 (57 percent), TCI 18/32 (56 percent).
Will Brown, second year coach of the SCCC men's basketball team, said of the win, "We played like s--- . . . we played lousy . . . " and continued his theme of thinking his players are playing with too much confidence and a complacent attitude on the floor.
In Saturday's semi-final game against the Clippers of Suffolk County Community College (SCCC), the hosts almost got clipped off at the knees as they were down 13 points with 5:02 remaining on the game clock, but somehow managed to stage a comeback 57-52 win. The Clippers carried a 24-19 lead at the half.
As the home team crowd sat stunned in their seats and a few tears started to fall in shocked disbelief on the Generals' bench, the Generals somehow managed to reach down in the hidden place where champions live and tie it up at 2:01 with a critical bucket by Tim Butler, following a trey by Dawson that brought them within 52-50.
With 18 seconds remaining in the game, Shiron Brown nailed a 17-footer to give the Generals their first lead in the second frame. Curtis Henry purloined the following inbounds pass and got the ball to Brown, who was fouled and made both free throws, to give SCCC a four-point lead at the 12-second mark.
Suffolk's last gasp to win came up short as a 3-pointer failed and was grabbed off the boards by Dawson. Fouled on the boards, he stepped up to the free thrown line and closed out the game with four seconds left, capping a 19-1 game-ending run by the Generals.
Dawson, a Monticello High School grad, topped the semi-finals win over the Clippers by scoring 22 points. Brown added 15.
For the Clippers, it was Garnett Thompson (21) and Roj Draine (11).
At the free throw line: Generals 9/20 (45 percent), Clippers 13/24 (54 percent).
Coach Brown's reaction to the squeak-by victory?
"We were tremendous for about four minutes. . . other than that, we didn't play well [because] the kids don't understand that if we don't score the ball, we can still play well by getting it done on the other end of the floor.
"This was our wake up call," added Brown. "The crowd was our sixth man tonight. . . they really helped us win this one."
In Sunday afternoon's final against the Senators, the Generals earned a trip to the NJCAA Division III tourney, with a 69-59 win.
The Generals took off to the locker room and presumably another lecture on the basics of buckets from Coach Brown with a 26-23 lead after being down by several points in the first half.
The amazing Kris Ibezim stepped up to the challenge by scoring a game leading 17 points, followed by Dereck Rankin (14) and Shiron Brown (13). Double digit man for the Senators was Antonio Bencosme with 16 points.
Stats from the free throw line: Generals 10/14 (71 percent), Senators 16/21 (76 percent).
UCCC Coach Anthony Evans, disciple of Orange County Community College men's basketball legend Paul Rickard, was tabbed as NJCAA's Region XV Coach of the Year.
"It's because of these kids that I got the award," he said. Evans played for Rickard from 1989-91, and was later his assistant in 1994 through '97.
"I learned the fundamentals from him, how to be patient and how to motivate kids to want to be better people," said Evans of his days under the wing of his mentor.
According to Evans, his coaching philosophy can be summed up in a couple of words "Hard work and defense.
"I thought it was a great game," he said of the loss to the number-one seeded generals. "Both teams played tremendous defense. . . there wasn't a lot of offense, but both teams worked very, very hard."
The 6-7 sophomore guard take on the prestigious award? "This is the best thing that's ever happed to me right here," said Dawson.
"This is what we've worked for all year long," he said of the Region XV championship victory. "This is why I came to Sullivan, instead of Orange (County Community College). Now we're going to Delhi. . . we've got three more to go."
Named to the All-Tourney TEam: Shiron Brown (Sullivan), Dereck Rankin (Sullivan), Antonio Bencosme (Ulster), Antolin Frias (Ulster) and Garnett Thompson (Suffolk).
SCCC helmsman Will brown called the final tourney game against Ulster a "war. . . both teams got after it and challenged each other."
According to Brown, even through the Generals are "struggling offensively. . . we can win games on the defensive end of the floor."
Brown hopes his team will have tossed off their offense doldrums by the time they get to the Nationals at SUNY Delhi.
"We didn't play well in the tourney," said the coach with a rep for never being satisfied. "We need to step up. . . we're trying to score within five seconds. . . we need to move the ball more, and pick and choose our shots.
"We're too good to miss that many shots three days in a row, " he added. "I hope to go up to Delhi and shoot the lights out.
"We need three one-game winning streaks," said Brown. "We're good enough to win the whole thing."
SCCC assistant coach Chris De Pew has been called the Generals "Secretary of Defense." His review of Generals' play during the NJCAA Region XV tournament? "We struggled, but championship teams find ways to win," said De Pew. "I'm glad we'll be at Delhi. I think we're going to make a strong push."