By Ted Waddell
LOCH SHELDRAKE March 2, 2004 In the opening round of the 2003-2004 NJCAA Region XV Mens Basketball Tournament, the host Generals of Sullivan County Community College (SCCC) eked out a slim 70-65 victory over the Lions of Nassau Community College.
The game was played Friday afternoon Down in the Bunker at SCCCs Paul Gerry Fieldhouse.
This years edition of the NJCAA Region XV tourney was hosted by the Mid-Hudson Conference and the local community college.
When these two teams faced each other earlier in the season on Nassaus home court, the Lions pranced away with a win in the last second on a half-court three-point shot.
In the final seconds of the first half in Fridays contest, SCCC (25-6 overall, 11-5 Region XV) eked out a narrow 29-28 lead.
In the second half, the Generals saw 12- and nine-point leads magically evaporate like quicksilver disappearing through cracks in a warped floor or a sun-baked snake slithering for some sheltering shade.
At the 3:33 mark, the Lions (17-12 overall, 11-7 Region XV) had clawed their way to within a mere point at 62-61.
But Nassau got tagged with a technical foul with 2:16 left on the game clock. Guard Darren Sykes then converted the subsequent two shots from the free-throw line to put SCCC up 64-61.
Then the Generals committed a foul. Nassaus Barry Coleman went one for two, cutting the SCCC lead to 64-62.
Ten seconds later, Sykes was fouled going up and put the Generals back in the drivers seat by four (66-62).
With 55.4 seconds remaining, Nassaus Kerrone Matthews nailed a two-point shot to once again bring the Lions scratching at the door.
Sykes was whistled for a foul against Nassaus Fleans Dervishi with just under 20 seconds left in the game. Dervishi made one of his two foul shots to bring the Lions back within a point at 66-65.
At the 17.5 mark, Dervishi made a cross-sports tackle on Sullivans Wayne Coward, who was good for two at the free throw line to put the Generals up 68-65.
In the final seconds, Generals forward Gary Jones, who was playing in his first game since breaking a bone in his foot against Suffolk Community College in late January, blocked a critical Lions three-pointer.
That was huge play, SCCC Coach Chris DePew said. He got the rebound, threw it over [the halfcourt line] and finished the layup to give us the win.
As last seconds ticked away, the Generals cheerleading squad rushed out onto the court, giving the referees a chance to play a quick round of pom-pom pick-up before the game could resume.
Im a little disappointed, said Nassau CC Coach A.J. Wynder. In the end, it came down to making free throws, and we didnt make them when we needed to.
It was a hard days afternoon for DePew as he watched a double-digit lead shrink to a single point. But in the end, Sullivan managed to win by five.
Im very proud of the guys for sticking together and making good decisions, he said of the Generals performance, which earned them a berth in Saturdays semifinals to face top-seeded Suffolk Community College.
DePew said tournament play is all about survive and advance in the race for the brass ring.
These guys are ready to go, and the other team is ready for the picking, he said.
Double digit scorers for SCCC were Keith Bussey (12 points), Dante Griggs (10) and Sykes (10).
For Nassau, Caheem Broadus scored a game-high 22 points. Alex Guest added 12 points and Barry Coleman had 10.
Both squads had a player with picture perfect stats at the free-throw line. Griggs was 4-of-4 for the Generals and Nassaus Broadus went 12-of-12.
Team stats from the free throw line: SCCC was 12-of-18 (67 percent) and Nassau CC went 19-of-25 (76 percent).