By Ted Waddell
DELHI March 19, 2002 For the Sullivan County Community College Generals mens basketball team, it was, in the immortal words of Yogi Bera, deja va all over again as the National Junior College Athletic Association Division III title eluded them for the second year in a row.
On Saturday night, SCCC (27-4) faced the 10th ranked College of DuPage (Illinois) Chaparrals (21-10) in the battle for the NJCAA crown.
In the opening round of the tourney, the Chaparrals knocked off the top-ranked Broncos of SUNY Delhi by controlling the tempo of the game.
The Generals fell victim to the same strategy in the championship game, as they couldnt adjust to DuPages 1-3-1 zone. Factor in successful shots from outside the three-point arc by Chaparrals Stephen Davis and Ben Curtis and the fact that DuPage owned the glass (out-rebounding SCCC 45-24), and the Generals were well on their way to taking the runner-up trophy. DuPage defeated SCCC by a 73-58 final.
In their two previous games last weekend at SUNY Delhi, the Generals came out on fire in opening practice sessions, appearing to all onlookers they were indeed headed for the national title.
But when it came to crunch time, it seemed as if their desire to win had waned a bit as their usual pre-game practice lacked intensity. As the game progessed, the spark of victory faded into the night.
By halftime, the Generals had fallen behind by 10 points (35-25). At one point in the second half, they trailed DuPage by 19 points in the wake of the electrifying three-pointers by the Chaparrals big guns.
Still behind by a 54-39 margin with about ten mintues remaining on the game clock, the momentum shifted briefly in favor of the Generals, but it was a classic case of too little too late.
At 9:24, guard/forward Davon Wilson hit a pair of free throws to cut DuPages lead to 12. Shortly thereafter, Tim Butler made one of two foul shots to narrow the gap to 59-49 ballgame, but the Chaparrals bounced back with a three-point shot to boost their lead to 62-49.
Wilson replied with a three, followed by a Shiron Brown bucket at 2:55 to make it a 64-56 contest.
At 1:20, Brown grabbed a steal, and went in for a critical bucket to close the gap to six points (64-58). But that was the end of the Generals despiration run at the gold.
DuPages Davis and Anthony Roberts stepped up to the free throw line and added four points to the Chaparral tally. In the final seconds of the game, a couple of more buckets closed out the scoring, and that was all she wrote for the Generals.
A duo of Generals made it to double figures: Davon Wilson and Butler were the only two SCCC players to reach double figures. Wilson had a game-high 22 points, while Butler added 20. SCCCs topgun, guard Shiron Brown, was contained to a meager six points.
Three Chaparrals racked up double digits in the scorebook. They were Stephen Davis (17), Ben Curtis (15) and Andrew Browning (14).
Stats from the free throw line: SCCC 12/21 (57 percent), DuPage 13/17 (77 percent).
Field goals: SCCC 20/59 (34 percent), DuPage 25/45 (56 percent).
The Generals top shooters Butler and Brown got into foul trouble early in the contest, and spent valuable minutes on the bench watching as DuPage built a comfortable lead.
As a result, the SCCC coaching staff wrestled with the decision as to the best moment to risk putting them back onto the floor against a determined defensive team, a call that probably gave them post-game haunts.
For the three Generals who were part of last seasons runner-up team under the leadership of then-coach Will Brown Shiron Brown, Butler and Kareem Morgan the loss was especially crushing.
I think we used up a lot of energy in our other two games, but when playoff time comes, youve got to play good . . . youve got to stick it out, Shiron Brown said. You win some and you lose some.
Morgan was fit to be tied at the outcome, as Sullivan failed to grab the brass ring for the second year in a row.
We didnt play our A game at all, he said. We had a good season, but it would have been great if we topped it off with a victory (tonight).
Butler summed up his feeling in a couple of words after the final buzzer.
We tried to adjust, but I guess we needed a little more time, he said.
As the realization sunk in that the Generals were headed for the runner-up slot for the second time in as many years, SCCCs athletic director and assistant coach Chris DePew must have experienced flashbacks to last year. In 2001, he was there with former coach Will Brown. This season, he watched Chad Beeten take it on the chin in the battle for the championship.
DePew was near tears during those emotionally charged moments as the Generals coaching staff consoled the team, a squad that almost made it despite the odds. The loss of Will Brown as coach, the departure of several top recruits and the sudden loss of a starter at the conclusion of the opening game of the regional tourney didnt exactly bode well for SCCC.
My overall impression is how proud I am of these guys, DePew said. We got caught up in their slow-down game, but we never said die.
Im proud of every one of these guys, he added. They gave us their all. Everybody told us from day one that we werent as talented (as last years team), that we didnt have a shot. But these guys just refused to believe that.
They are a great bunch of kids, and I love everyone of them.
Chad Beeten came on board at SCCC five games into the regular season after Will Brown moved on to SUNY Albany, a Division I institution.
His reaction to the loss?
I lost the national championship, but Im proud of the kids . . . they worked very hard to get here, Beeten said. We wanted to win the championship, but we fell a little bit short.
It hurts right now, but a week from now, well be saying it was a hell of a season. It was great what these kids accomplished.
DuPage Coach Don Klass is in his 32nd year of coaching at the junior college level. Although he has been to the nationals before, this was his first victory. DuPage was in the finals two years ago, but lost.
It was fun to win, he said. We controlled the tempo of the game . . . the way we take care of the ball and our defense presents problems for teams. That tempo thing is real important.