By Rob Potter
LOCH SHELDRAKE A campaign which began with a preseason No. 1 ranking among National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division III men’s basketball teams ended with a heartbreaking loss on Sunday afternoon for the Sullivan County Community College Generals.
SCCC led by as many as 18 points in the second half of the NJCAA Region XV Division III championship game at Paul Gerry Fieldhouse, but could not hold off a furious rally by the Rockland Community College Hawks.
No. 3 seed Rockland edged the fourth-seeded Generals, 81-77, to earn the Region XV title and a berth in the upcoming NJCAA Division III National Tournament at SUNY Delhi.
SCCC (21-11) held a 45-35 advantage at halftime and extended that lead in the opening minutes of the second half.
At the 16:11 mark, sophomore guard Mike McNair swished a 3-point shot from the corner to give the Generals a 57-41 lead. Nearly six minutes later, McNair drove to the hoop and scored. The basket extended the SCCC advantage to 18 points at 72-54.
But the determined Hawks kept chipping away and gradually closed their deficit.
After SCCC’s André Martin scored with 7:43 remaining to make it a 74-63 game, Rockland (23-10) responded with a 10-0 run.
Sophomore point guard Angel Gonzalez capped that run by calmly swishing a pair of free throws with 3:49 remaining to pull the Hawks to within a single point at 74-73.
Twenty seconds later, SCCC’s Kyle Humphrey drilled a 3-pointer for the top of the key to push his team’s lead to 77-73.
But that was the final basket the Generals would record on the afternoon.
Gonzalez put up a successful shot off the glass with 2:32 remaining to shave the SCCC lead to 77-76.
Then with 48.2 seconds displayed on the overhead scoreboard, he stepped to the free-throw line and made two shots, giving Rockland a 78-77 lead.
On its next possession, SCCC missed a shot but got another chance to potentially regain the lead when the ball hit a Rockland player before going out of bounds.
The Generals inbounded the ball and had three shots in the lane as players from both teams battled to control the ball. Unfortunately for the Generals and the partisan crowd watching from the bleachers, none of those shots found their way into the basket.
The Hawks’ James Beckford rebounded the third Generals’ miss and was immediately fouled. He made his second free throw to make it a 79-77 game with just 11.4 seconds left.
SCCC quickly moved upcourt and freshman guard Moses Dayee attempted to tie the game by driving down the lane and lofting the ball up to the basket. But the ball glanced off the rim and after a scramble for the rebound, Rockland’s John Oakes grabbed the ball and was fouled with 2.2 seconds on the clock. He then stepped up to the free-throw line and swished both shots to seal the Hawks’ four-point victory.
“These are definitely the two best teams in the region,” Rockland Coach Bill Kurisko said. “We were able to beat Sullivan twice this season and they beat us once.”
Gonzalez, Matt Rose and Mark Mandara paced the Rockland offense. Gonzalez, who was named the tournament MVP, netted a team-high 21 points. Rose, a sophomore forward who was selected for the all-tournament team, had 15 points and Mandara, a freshman forward, netted 11 points.
Oakes added nine points for the Hawks.
“I’m just very happy and so proud of these kids,” Kurisko said. “Angel Gonzalez played a great game. He scored some big baskets for us.”
McNair led the Generals with a game-high 22 points. McNair scored nearly half of his points on a trio of successful shots from beyond the 20-foot, 6-inch arc.
Dayee, who made four 3-pointers, and freshman forward Lindsay Robinson each netted 14 points for SCCC and Martin added eight points.
SCCC Coach Tim Perry was understandably shocked and disappointed following the game.
“I don’t think I have ever seen that before,” he said. “It felt like forever, but it was actually about five or six minutes in the second half where we didn’t make a field goal.
“We fouled too much in the second half,” he added. “Rockland was able to make foul shots and get back into the game without time coming off the clock.”
In the second half, Rockland shot 14-for-21 (67 percent) at the free-throw line. For the game, the Hawks converted 17 of their 25 foul shots.
Conversely, SCCC was 4-of-10 at the free-throw line in the game.
“I told the guys that it happens to all teams,” Perry said of the Generals’ second-half scoring drought. “It just happened to us at the worst possible time.”
Looking on the bright side, Perry praised his team for finishing second in the Mid-Hudson Conference and second in Region XV this season.
Humphrey and McNair were named to the all-tournament team.
The other two players chosen for the all-tournament team were Kingsborough Community College’s Derrison Anthony and Suffolk-Selden Community College’s Roy Jimenez.
Generals upend Nassau, Kingsborough to reach title game
On Saturday night, SCCC defeated Kingsborough Community College, 94-68, in the tournament’s semifinals.
SCCC used a very balanced scoring attack to register the 28-point win. Six Generals scored in double figures. McNair led the way with 25 points, Dayee had 16 points, Humphrey and Martin each netted 14 points, Tim McKnight recorded 11 points and Robinson added 10 points.
Derrison Anthony scored 21 points for Kingsborough, while teammates Iouri Matsakov and Tarik Alassari added 15 points and 12 points, respectively.
On Friday night, SCCC topped the Nassau Community College Lions, 70-57, in a quarterfinal game.
The contest was tied twice in the opening minutes before Dayee swished a 3-pointer to give the Generals an 18-15 lead with 10:18 left until halftime.
SCCC then held the advantage for the rest of the evening.
“Sullivan played a great game,” Nassau CC Coach A.J. Wynder said. “We played well, but they were the better team tonight.”
Jefferson Guillaume and Rashawn McCarthy led the Lions with 19 points apiece.
McNair paced the SCCC offense with a game-high 27 points. Robinson added 13 points, while Martin finished with 10 points.
Perry noted that his team “played very well on defense in the second half” of the contest.