By Ted Waddell
LOCH SHELDRAKE February 7, 2003 What a difference a week makes.
And what a difference a seasons worth of hard work makes.
While the Sullivan County Community College (SCCC) Generals were ranked number one in the preseason National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division III Mens Basketball Poll, the ranking was a reflection on past glory.
In Tuesdays poll, the Generals were at the top of the NJCAA Division III heap, proving the old adage that to reach the peak of the mountain, youve got to start climbing by putting one foot in front of the other.
Or in the game of hoops, one victory at a time.
In the previous poll, which was released on January 28, SCCC was ranked third, trailing SUNY Delhi and Fergus Falls Community College of Minnesota.
By Tuesday, the Generals (17-3, 13-0 Region XV) had jumped over the pack with 41 points. SUNY Delhi, which has a 21-2 record this season, dropped from first to second, while last weeks number seventh-ranked team, Minnesota Community & Technical College, moved up to third.
On Tuesday night, the Generals defeated the visiting Colts of rival Orange County Community College by 46 points, 89-43, in the first of four consecutive games Down in the Bunker at Paul Gerry Fieldhouse.
We played well enough to win by 46 points, SCCC Coach Chad Beeten said.
Beeten said that before the teams took to the floor, he cautioned his players to guard against a letdown after last Saturdays big win over Westchester Community College.
He added that the Colts are considered a difficult team to play because of their penchant for slowing down the pace of the game, but SCCCs superior talent and firepower ruled the night.
Asked what it felt like to be ranked number one in Division III, Beeten had a simple and honest response.
If were ranked number one on March 13th, Ill be a very happy man, he said.
(March 13 is the date of the The NJCAA Division III National Championship game at SUNY Delhi.)
Right now it doesnt mean very much if were ranked one or 10, Beeten added. [At] last years championship, the team that beat us [in Delhi] was never ranked in the top 10 and they had 11 losses.
Its a nice accolade for our kids, because theyve worked hard to earn it, said Beeten of the most recent NJCAA Division III Mens Basketball Poll ranking.
The Generals Dante Griggs summed up the win over the Colts.
We played real good against a team that came in here to control the pace of the ball, he said.
Im really happy how things are going this season, added the 19-year-old freshman from the Bronx. Were 17 and 3, and number one in the country . . . you cant beat that!
Nineteen-year-old freshman Joe McLeod hails from Brooklyn. His take on the team?
I think were focused now, and hopefully well go all the way, he said .
Whats it like to be ranked number one?
Its hard work, man, replied McLeod. Our coaches and the team, we all put in hard work, and thats why were number one today.
SCCC Athletic Director and Assistant Coach Chris DePew said that this weeks announcement of the Generals number one ranking was a real honor to these kids and a tribute to the program.
According to DePew, at halftime a few of the Generals had a hard time with one of the cardinal rules of NJCAA basketball. That axiom being that when youre beating the stuffing out of the opposition, you keep on playing with intensity, but dont embarrass the other team by running up the score.
At the half, we told them we werent pressing anymore . . . you dont push things over the edge, he said. We told them not to play any less, just do it on half a court or in the zone [defense] instead of a full court press.
This is a team that is trying to live up [to] the teams of the last two years, DePew added. Theyre trying to find their own niche in the scheme of Sullivan basketball.
The Colts were hamstrung going into the game against SCCC, as they recently lost six players to grade issues. Reportedly among those players were 2002 Monticello Central School graduates Chris Robinson and Phillip Stewart.
Orange County Community College is struggling a little bit, and were starting to hit our stride, said DePew. We took them out of their game.
[OCCC Coach] Paul Rickard is a class act, he added. I feel for Paul. Theyre having a down year, but will bounce back.
A trio of SCCC players reached double figures. Darren Sykes led the way with 14 points, while Gary Jones and Darius Waters each netted 10 points on the evening.
Jones led the Generals with seven defensive rebounds. McLeod had five steals and Mikail Malik was credited with four assists.
Aramis Ramos scored a team-high 12 points for OCCC.
Note: The Generals are scheduled to play their next three games at home. The team was scheduled to host Rockland Community College last night and will welcome SUNY Delhi to Paul Gerry Fieldhouse at 3 p.m. tomorrow. At 7:30 p.m. next Tuesday (Feb. 11), the Generals take on Ulster Community College.