By Ted Waddell
LOCH SHELDRAKE January 26, 2007 The sweat was pouring off Sullivan County Community College Coach Chris DePew’s brow Wednesday night in the wake of a “spirited” closed locker room chat with his players after their 76-67 win over Westchester Community College in a National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Mid-Hudson Conference men’s basketball game.
It might as well have been a steam room, as DePew boiled over in an effort to get all of the Generals on the same page, and a few new players to buy into the idea that Sullivan’s hopes of winning the NJCAA Division III national championship in March hinges on everybody playing together as a team, rather “how we look to our friends sitting in the stands.”
Wednesday night’s contest at Paul Gerry Fieldhouse on the SCCC campus in Loch Sheldrake pitted the unbeaten Generals, who are the No. 1-ranked NJCAA Division III team in the nation, against the Westchester CC Westcos (8-4, 2-1 Mid-Hudson Conference), an NJCAA Division I full-scholarships program.
Although SCCC (13-0) led by nine points at the half (34-25), DePew sat fuming on the sidelines before heading off to the locker room.
Apparently a few of his players were still eyeing the fans, as early in the second frame they allowed the competition to close within five (37-32) until they “got the word”, and at about the 13- minute mark figured it was time to wake up. The Generals then went on an 11-point scoring run to take a 49-32 lead.
Westchester CC’s Emilijano Kinaj closed out the scoring with a 3-point shot from outside the 19-foot, 9-inch arc. It was his seventh 3-pointer of the game.
Double-digit scorers for SCCC included: Michael Hines, who had a team-high 13 points including a couple of 3-point shots, Ali Sayed (12 points), Donte Harrison (11 points) and Jason Johnson (10 points).
For the Westcos, Emilijano Kinaj netted a game-high 23 points and Michael McDuffie had 10 points.
SCCC went 24-of-32 (75 percent) at the free-throw line, while Westchester CC was 11-of-16 (69 percent) at the line.
“We played hard, but we were too far behind and weren’t able to come back,” Westchester CC Coach Winston Nicholas said.
His take of the Generals?
“They played smart and under control, they did what they had to do and didn’t give us a chance to come back,” he added. “We played soft, we didn’t play hard.”
At the end of the first semester, SCCC lost three players because of academic issues: Marion Lewis, James Sutton and Ryan Sutton.
But they picked up Darnell Ghee, Ali Sayed and Jakar Wells to round out the 12-man roster at the start of the second semester.
“They haven’t been with us for the first four months of this ride,” DePew said. “They have high hopes for themselves and what they can accomplish, but they’re going to have to learn that it’s not going to happen the very first night back… they’ll have to work their way into the system.”
Stats are important. But DePew cares more about victories.
“I don’t care who scores the most points, who grabs the most rebounds, who gets the most passes, I care about us having one more point than the other team at the end of the game,” DePew said.
His take on the highs and lows of the game against Westchester CC?
“I’m happy that we won the basketball game after a six-week break that no other team has to endure,” DePew replied.
“We brought these kids back last week and got in five practices, and then we threw the ball up against a [NJCAA] Division I team we were able to build the lead we wanted and do what we needed to do to win the game.
“However, at points and times, our effort and our attitude isn’t what it needs to be to get where we need to go,” DePew added.
And, for the coach of the Generals, that’s a big ‘however.’
“Our goal is to compete for a national championship,” said DePew, looking ahead to the NJCAA National Championships on March 15, 16 and 17 at SUNY Delhi.
“If I don’t have all 12 guys on the same page, we’re not going to get there… we need all 12 to understand they are in the scheme of things,” DePew said. “Sometimes we lose that in translation.”
Tomorrow, Saturday, Jan. 27, the Generals take to the floor in a game that’s being touted as the “Junior College Game of the Year”.
At 2 p.m. “Down in the Bunker” at SCCC, the Generals will meet Suffolk County Community College (Selden), the country’s No. 4-ranked NJCAA Division III team.
“It’s going be the monster game of the year,” DePew commented. “It will be one heck of a basketball game.”