By Ted Waddell
LOCH SHELDRAKE March 05, 2002 For the Generals of Sullivan County Community College (SCCC), hosts of the 2001-2002 NJCAA Region XV Mens & Womens Basketball Tournament for the second consecutive year, Sunday afternoons title game was a real cliffhanger.
Down two starters from the first game, Sullivan (25-3) limped off to the locker room down by three (24-27) against a fired up pride of Lions from Nassau Community College (25-5).
With a scant two seconds remaining of the game clock, and the game tied 52-52, a controversial foul call almost handed the win to the Lions.
After Nassaus Chris Grant missed both shots under a lot of pressure, the game went into a tension-filled five minute overtime.
SCCC won in a barnburner performance, 64-59, thus winning a trip to the upcoming NJCAA Division III Mens Basketball Finals at SUNY Delhi on March 14-16.
The Lions jumped out to an early 9-0 lead in the opening frame, but SCCC answered with six rapid-fire points.
At 3:14, the Generals Dana Holmes made it a 21-20 ballgame with a steal and an electrifying slam dunk. About a minute later, Shiron Brown tied it up (22-22) with a steal and a two-pointer. At 1:03 in the first frame, Bryon Evans put the Generals temporarily in the lead by two.
With 30 seconds left in the half, Nassau was back in the drivers seat with a three, followed by a last second bucket to take a 27-24 lead in the locker room.
After Sullivan went up by six (33-27) in the opening minutes of the second frame, Nassau fought back to tie it up 35-35 at the halfway mark.
As regulation play counted down, the action was fast and furious on both sides of the court. The lead changed repeatedly as both squads fought for supremacy.
With the Lions in the lead 45-43, Shiron Brown tied it up for SCCC, and then seconds later put the Generals up by three points with a shot from outside the arc.
Nassaus Julio Chevalier brought the Lions back to within a point (48-47) with a couple of shots from the free throw line.
But a three pointer by SCCCs Davon Wilson made it a 51-47 ballgame.
Seconds later Chevalier split a pair of foul shots, and the game stood at 51-48.
With just 38 seconds left in regulation, Brown made one of two at the foul line to give the Generals a 52-48 advantage.
Seconds later, Nassaus Chris Grant made one of two at the line to make it a 52-49 game.
Brown was intentionally fouled with 29 seconds left, but missed both shots from the free throw line. After missing the first, he walked up to the net to make sure it hadnt been sewn shut.
Nassau tied it up 52-52 with 13 seconds on the clock with a heart-stopping three-pointer.
With two seconds left in regulation play, the SCCC coaching staff went ballistic as the referee called a blocking foul on General Wygene McCants.
So with the regional crown hanging in the balance, Grant stepped up to the line. The stands erupted when he missed both, as a Lion became the game goat.
Bryon Evans drew first blood in the overtime period when he made one of two foul shots to put the Generals up by a point. Davon Wilson sunk a two pointer to make it a 55-52 ballgame.
After Nassaus John Fero split a pair from the free throw line, Brown converted one of two foul shots at 1:48 to keep SCCC up by a 56-53 score.
Tim Butler dropped in a key bucket seconds later to put the Generals in the lead at 58-55.
After Brown was intentionally fouled with 30 seconds remaining in OT, he found his range again and put Sullivan ahead by five. Nassau answered with a bucket, and then intentionally fouled Morgan, who iced two free throws to give SCCC a 62-57 lead with only 15 seconds left.
SCCCs Shiron Brown punched the Generals ticket to Delhi with four seconds left to ensure the Generals five-point win.
Three Generals made it to double figures on the way to the Nationals: Shiron Brown (a game-high 28), Kareem Morgan (11) and Davon Wilson (10).
For Nassau, Julio Chevalier had 22 points and Chris Grant added 15.
As the awards were handed out to the regional champs and runner-up, nine-year-old Calvin Henry of Liberty was center stage during the ceremony.
On September 7, the lad was diagnosed with leukemia. For the past couple of years, hes attended summer basketball camps run by the local community college, and the team and coaches have taken him under their wing.
Also taking center stage was the #10 jersey of Andre Simmons, the Generals starting forward/center who was picked up on a bench warrant and jailed moments after the Generals win against Fashion Institute of Technology in Fridays nights opening round of the regional tourney.
As Sullivan marched to a slim victory over Kingsborough on Saturday and defeated Nassau on Sunday, Simmons jersey has served as a battle flag, rallying a team that refuses to quit despite the odds.
As an interesting sidelight. Sullivan hasnt lost a home game in two years, two months and 19 days at Paul Gerry Fieldhouse.
It was an exciting game for the fans, but for the coaches it was a little nerve-racking, said Nassau Coach A. J. Wynder, who was named the Region XV Coach of the Year. I think the guys played extremely hard and left everything on the floor. Unfortunately, somebody had to lose.
We had our opportunities, said Wynder. We had two free throws with two seconds left on the clock, (and) if we hit one we would have gone into the (national) championship. (But) we didnt make either one.
According to SCCC Athletic Director Chris DePew, there were two ways the Generals were going to come out on the floor for the regional final: strong or real hesitant.
Down 9-0 at the start of the game, DePew said he was a little nervous.
But I knew we were forcing some action . . . we were getting the shots we wanted, they just werent dropping. It was a matter of time before our guys stepped up and got the shots.
As for the foul call that almost decided a regional title, DePew said, It was a terrible call . . . it was poetic justice at the end to win the game, the ref should have let it go into overtime.
This is a team of destiny, he added, still smarting over the sudden loss of Simmons to the legal system. Were a family.
According to DePew, after Will Brown left for a Division I school, we lost some big time recruits and local sportswriters predicted the Generals would be lucky to make the .500 mark this year.
I started the program this season, and then we brought Chad in, said DePew. We bought into each others programs, and it worked. Were going to Delhi.
Beeten said his players were more worried than he was about being down by nine at the start of the championship game against Nassau.
We were doing all the right things, and defense is what made us win this championship, he said. Nine points is nothing in basketball, especially at the beginning of a game.
Of the controversial call, Beeten said diplomatically. I guess the ends justify the means.
During the awards ceremony, Beeten publicly dedicated the NJCAA Region XV trophy to Andre Simmons, little Calvin Henry and the Generals.
We went through a lot of highs and lows to get here, he said. It feels good to win the regional title. Were going after the national championship.
Shiron Brown had this take on the regional final: It was an awesome game, he said.
I missed a couple of free throws in the crunch, but I made up for it. I had to redeem myself. I got a big rebound, came down and scored in the middle of the paint.
Kareem Morgan wasnt as diplomatic as his coach when talking about the last second foul call that almost won the game for the Lions.
I think the refs tried to give it to them at the end of regulation . . . but we went into overtime, and our two leaders, Timmy Butler and Shiron Brown brought home the championship.
Notes: On Friday night, the Generals sophomore shooter Shiron Brown was recognized for racking up his 1000th point while wearing the green and gold uniform of SCCC.
On Sunday afternoon, Brown was tabbed as the regional tourneys MVP.
Members of the NJCAA Region XV All-Tournament Team: Imbert Prosper (Kingsborough), Lawrence Brown (Rockland), Julio Chevelier (Nassau), Chris Grant (Nassau), Davon Wilson (SCCC) and Shiron Brown (SCCC).