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Democrat Photo by Rob Potter

SCCC’S DARREN SYKES puts up a shot over Suffolk-West defenders Jermaine Russell, left, and Jean Louis, who is hidden behind Sykes.

Suffolk-West CC Shocks Generals, 90-77

By Rob Potter
LOCH SHELDRAKE — January 30, 2004 – The scoreboard at the Paul Gerry Fieldhouse on the campus of Sullivan County Community College looked a bit unusual following Monday night’s Region XV men’s basketball game between the host SCCC Generals and the Suffolk County Community College-West Longhorns.
The display had a larger number under the word “guest” than the number under the word “home.” It was the first time since December 12, 1999 that the scoreboard looked like that.
For the first time since that game just over four years ago, the Generals were defeated in Paul Gerry Fieldhouse.
Suffolk-West (10-7, 8-4 Region XV) grabbed a double-digit advantage in the first three minutes of the game and held the lead throughout the contest. The Longhorns ended SCCC’s 66-game home-winning streak with a 90-77 victory in the Region XV contest.
“Suffolk-West wasn’t intimidated by the Sullivan mystique,” SCCC Coach Chris DePew said. “They didn’t look around at the championship banners and think about the Sullivan basketball tradition. They just decided to come out and play the best game they could – and that’s exactly what they did.”
Three-point baskets by Suffolk-West’s Jonelle Jones and J. J. Walsh in the first 1:40 of the game gave the visitors a quick 6-0 lead. The Longhorns extended that advantage to 12-0 before SCCC’s Darren Sykes scored his team’s first point of the game by swishing a free throw with 14:40 remaining in the first half.
Over the next several minutes, the Generals, spurred on by their hometown fans, closed the gap. With six minutes left until the half, Sykes hit a three-pointer to pull SCCC (11-3, 8-3 Region XV) to within two points at 27-25.
But the Generals could not get any closer as the Longhorns ended the half with a 9-4 scoring run.
“We got it down to two points, but the next five times we had the ball, when we could have tied it or taken the lead, we turned it over,” DePew said. “Had we taken the lead there, it might have been a different game. We would have forced Suffolk West to play catch up and it’s very difficult for a visiting team to play catch up in this building.”
As it turned out, however, the Longhorns did not need to work from behind. After SCCC closed the lead to five points in the first minute of the second half, Suffolk-West responded with baskets on its next two possessions to push the lead back to 10 points.
The Longhorns took their biggest lead of the evening with 6:10 remaining. At that moment, Jones swished a pair of foul shots to give the team a 71-50 advantage.
Jones, who finished with a team-high 28 points, was one of four Suffolk-West players to score in double figures. Walsh netted 20 points, Jean Louis had 16 points and Jermaine Russell added 15.
“The kids played well,” Suffolk-West Coach Tony Zajac said. “We’ve been playing better lately that we did the first part of the season. We’ve won seven of our last eight games.”
“The players have been sharing the ball and really looking for each other on offense,” Zajac continued. “And defensively, we played well. You have to play defense to win college basketball games.”
In addition to their fine defensive performance, the Longhorns also enjoyed an advantage at the free-throw line, especially when the Generals began fouling liberally during the last five minutes of the game in an effort to stop the clock and prolong the contest. Suffolk-West went 26-of-38 (68 percent) at the line, compared to 17-of-30 (57 percent) for SCCC.
The Generals’ offense was paced by Sykes, who scored a game-high 33 points. Dante Griggs, Gary Jones and Joseph McLeod each added 10 points for SCCC.
DePew said that he knew his team would come out a little flat after losing a tough game on Saturday at Suffolk County Community College. The Generals lost to Suffolk, 69-60. (Suffolk County Community College – not to be confused with Suffolk- West – is the top-ranked team in the latest National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division III poll.)
And the coach second-guessed himself about giving the team a day off on Sunday.
“That was such an emotional game against Suffolk and we had 14 straight days with either a game or practice that I decided to give these guys a day off to relax,” DePew said. “Instead, we should have been in here shooting yesterday.”
While noting that the SCCC locker room was “very somber” following the game, DePew planned to use the defeat as a learning experience.
“I think the players realize now that you have to work hard every day,” DePew said. “But we’ll regroup. Hopefully, we will start a new 11-game home win streak. If we do that, it will put us in the national championships at [SUNY] Delhi.”
Notes: One player from each team went down with an injury in the second half. With 5:26 left, Suffolk- West’s Mike Wilkerson fell to the floor after apparently being inadvertently elbowed by an SCCC player. Zajac said that Wilkerson, who was lying on the court for a few moments, suffered a concussion.
With about seven minutes remaining, SCCC’s Gary Jones left the game after hurting his ankle. It was not immediately known how severe the injury was.
• SCCC freshman point guard LeMichael Allen has left the team due to academic reasons. DePew said that two other freshmen, Daishawn Fowler and Ghiles Jackson will see playing time at the point.
• Inclement weather on Tuesday night canceled the Generals’ game versus Manhattan Community College. The game will now be played at 7 p.m. on Monday, February 9 at Paul Gerry Fieldhouse.
• The Generals were scheduled to host Dutchess Community College last night in a Region XV contest.

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