By Ted Waddell
LOCH SHELDRAKE December 19, 2006 Sometimes getting stuck in a rut isn’t such a bad thing.
Especially if it means being the top-ranked National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division III basketball team and wrapping up the semester with a 12-0 record by defeating an opponent intent on knocking you off the catbird’s perch.
And as an added bonus, your coach chalks up his 100th victory as a college helmsman.
On Saturday, the Generals of Sullivan County Community College (12-0) took to the home court at Paul Gerry Fieldhouse with a 11-0 record and Coach Chris DePew had a record of 99 wins and 18 losses.
By the end of the afternoon, the Generals were 12-0 and DePew had his milestone victory as SCCC topped Nassau Community College, 77-62, in an NJCAA Region XV game.
So what were DePew’s pre-game thoughts against squaring off against the Lions of Nassau CC (9-3)?
“The team we’re going to face today is a very good basketball team, by far the best we’ve faced all season,” he said. “They are very well coached and have a very good program.”
Traditionally, SCCC closes out the first semester with a game against Nassau.
Last year, the Generals knocked off the Lions in their own den.
As DePew watched the SCCC Lady Generals surge back for a win over the Nassau CC Lady Lions prior to the men’s game, DePew commented about the tensions near the end of the first semester of a long season of hoops.
“The players need to rest their bodies and the coach needs to rest his mind,” he said. “Basketball is a long season, and after this much time we need a break from each other… we’re at the point where they’re irritable and I’m irritable.”
“It’s time for a little vacation from each other,” DePew added.
On December 9, SCCC defeated Queensborough CC and on Dec. 12 the Generals beat Rockland CC.
“We didn’t play well our last two games, but we played well enough to win,” said DePew of his team, which for the eighth straight week was ranked #1 in the country.
“As long as we keep winning, we’ll keep the number-one ranking,” DePew said.
Sullivan was a tad sluggish in the first half. But with about five minutes remaining in the frame, the Generals decided it was time to wake up and they took a 29-20 lead.
In the closing minutes, Nassau nailed a 3-pointer, but the Generals headed off to the locker room up by seven points (37-30).
Early in the second half, the Lions ripped a couple of ‘3’s’, shaving Sullivan’s lead to six points, but at about the 15 minute mark the home team was back up by double figures, 49-27.
At 3:48, Nassau closed to within four (66-62), and with two minutes left on the game clock, Sullivan was ahead by nine (71-62).
As it turned out, those were the last points the opposition was going to post on the scoreboard, aided in large measure by the defensive ability of SCCC center Jason Johnson. He acted like a 6-foot-8 vacuum cleaner, sweeping shot after shot off the boards and out of the outstretched paws of the Lions.
SCCC went up by 11 points with 54.5 seconds left as Josh Lott went 1-for-2 at the free throw line.
The Generals’ double-digit scorers were the team’s three big men: Johnson (17 points, including making 9-of-13 shots at the free throw line), Donte Harrison (17 points) and Jamal Raphael (13 points).
The leading scorer for Nassau was Wes Matthews, who had a game-high 27 points.
Stats from the free throw line: SCCC was 20-of-32 (63 percent), Nassau CC was 9-of-12 (75 percent).
“I’m not happy because we lost,” Nassau CC Coach A.J. Wynder said.
“It’s tough when you come up here, because they really play well at home,” he added.
DePew’s reaction to the game?
“It’s great,” he said. “I’ve got a great bunch of kids who came to play today. In the last couple of games we really haven’t played well, but they promised me they were ready to bring it today, and they did.”
DePew said the Generals of 2006-2007 are the type of a team that if they get off to a good start are able to carry it and move through to victory lane.
But if they’re snoozing at the start, it’s hair pulling time for DePew and fourth year Assistant Coach Troy Nowlin.
“I think we did what we needed to do to stay in the game,” he said. “We got down a little bit, but our sophomore leadership in terms of understanding the game and experience is a tribute to winning games.”
DePew is a coach who is used to facing some criticism and isn’t afraid to respond to the naysayers.
“People told me you’re ranked number one, but you haven’t played anybody,” he said. “Well, we’ll take on anybody and put it out there.”
The Generals are scheduled to open up the second semester with a home game “Down in the Bunker” at Paul Gerry Fieldhouse at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, January 24, 2007. SCCC will host Westchester Community College in a Region XV contest that evening.