By Rob Potter
MIDDLETOWN March 11, 2005 Ghiles Jackson will probably remember his 21st birthday for a very long time.
On Wednesday night, Jackson and his teammates on the Sullivan County Community College mens basketball team celebrated his special day with a 93-89 victory over SUNY Orange. With the win, the Generals clinched their third straight Mid-Hudson Conference championship.
A balanced scoring attack and a second-half scoring run were the keys as SCCC (25-7) defeated the Colts on their homecourt in Middletown.
Leading the Generals to victory were Greg Johnson, Kevin Johnson, Kelvin Nelson and Everage Richardson, all of whom scored in double figures. Kevin Johnson swished five 3-point shots and finished the evening with a game-high 28 points. Greg Johnson netted 26 points, while Richardson and Nelson recorded 16 points and 14 points, respectively.
SCCC also used a 10-0 run in the first seven minutes of the second half to take the lead for good. After SUNY Orange (18-10) had taken a 56-52 lead with 15-plus minutes to play, Greg Johnson converted four free throws within a 30-second span to knot the game at 56-56. The Generals then scored 10 straight points to take a 66-56 advantage with 12:52 remaining in the contest. Greg Johnson and Kevin Johnson each netted four points in that key scoring run.
The Generals held a 10-point lead with just over five minutes remaining, but the Colts cut that advantage to five points (86-81) at the 2:35 mark. SUNY Orange narrowed its deficit to just three points (89-86) with 27 seconds showing on the scoreboard clock when Tim Charles scored an easy basket in the lane.
On the ensuing inbound play, Kevin Johnson was fouled immediately as SUNY Orange tried to keep precious seconds on the clock. Johnson calmly made both foul shots to give the Generals a 91-86 advantage with 24.9 seconds left.
The Colts missed a 3-pointer on their next possession. SCCCs Jon Bentley grabbed the rebound and was fouled a split second later. Bentley converted both free throws to extend the Generals lead to seven (93-86) with just 19 seconds remaining.
Charles hit a 3-pointer seven seconds later to pull the Colts to within four points, but that was as close as they would get.
SCCCs victory came only three days after the team lost to Hostos Community College in the championship game of the National Junior Collegiate Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division III Region XV Tournament, which was held this past weekend at Westchester Community College in Valhalla.
Nobody really wanted to play tonight after what happened on Sunday, Jackson said. That Hostos game was a tough loss. But I credit my fellow sophomores Jon Bentley, Greg Johnson and Greg Primus for getting the other guys ready for this game.
In addition to somewhat reducing the sting of falling to Hostos and missing the chance play in the NJCAA National Tournament at SUNY Delhi, the SCCC players had the added motivation of Jacksons birthday.
Everybody just stepped it up tonight, they didnt want to lose on my birthday, said Jackson, who served as team captain this season.
At the beginning of the game, however, a win to celebrate Jacksons 21st birthday seemed uncertain. Undoubtedly feeling the effects of the loss to Hostos CC, the Generals looked lethargic in the opening minutes.
I thought we felt the effects of Sundays defeat for about 35 minutes, SCCC Coach Chris DePew said. We had one good five-minute stretch in the second half when we were able to pull ahead by a few points. We let them back in the game towards the end, but we did enough to get the win.
Another key to the Generals win was their performance at the free-throw line. SCCC made 22-of-29 shots (76 percent) at the line, while SUNY Orange was just 5-of-10 (50 percent) at the charity stripe.
However, both teams shot very well from beyond the arc. The Colts made 10 3-pointers and the Generals made nine 3-point shots.
We lost by two points up there, said SUNY Orange Coach Paul Rickard, referring to the game the two teams played earlier this season at Paul Gerry Fieldhouse on the SCCC campus. It was pretty close for most of tonights game.
But we just couldnt stop number 32 [Greg Johnson], Rickard continued. He had a great game. He was able to penetrate into the lane and then dish it back out to one of his teammates. We had no answer for that.
Charles led all SUNY Orange scorers with 26 points. Also reaching double figures for the Colts were John Alexander (23 points), Neal Wilkins (17) and Luke Mortenson (16).
Although disappointed with the loss, Rickard said he was just happy to play a game. The Colts had not played in three weeks and are busy preparing for this weekends District 9 Tournament in Warwick, Rhode Island. Joining SUNY Orange at the tourney will be Lackawanna (Pa.) Junior College, Dean (Mass.) Junior College and the host school, Community College of Rhode Island. The winner of the event will advance to the NJCAA Division II nationals later this month in Danville, Ill.
It was good to be out on the court and get some of the cobwebs out, Rickard said.
DePew noted that very few teams win their final game of the season without winning the national championship.
Im so proud of our guys, he said. SUNY Orange is a good team and we beat them to win our third straight Mid-Hudson Conference championship. And I am especially proud of our sophomores for the way they have performed the past two seasons.
Those sophomores were definitely happy to end their SCCC careers with a victory.
I had a good career, Jackson said. The sophomores had a great two years. We won the Mid-Hudson Conference championship again, thats nice its another banner for the school.
I probably come back next year to watch these guys, Jackson added. With Jon Frasier, Kelvin Petey Nelson, Everage Richardson and everybody else coming back, they should have a great season. I think they can go undefeated.