By Ted Waddell
LOCH SHELDRAKE February 2, 2007 It almost came to an end.
On Tuesday evening, the Sullivan County Community College Generals (16-0), the undefeated No. 1-ranked National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) team in the nation, was almost handed their first defeat of the season by their arch rivals, the Colts of Orange County Community College.
At halftime of the Mid-Hudson Conference game, SCCC took a 38-27 lead into the locker room.
In the second half, Stephen Green brought OCCC (13-7) to within a point at 46-45 when he iced a pair of shots from the free- throw line. But at 5:07, SCCC was back up by 11 points (61-50).
Things got interesting the final 60 seconds.
Jason Johnson was 2-for-2 at the line to put the Generals up 66-58.
Josh Lott was 1-for-2 at the line to extend the Generals’ advantage to 67-60.
At the 26-second mark, the Colts closed to within four points on a 3-pointer. Just four seconds later, OCCC scored a regular bucket to make it a 67-65 contest.
The Colts fouled Lott, who came up short on both of his foul shots. Then with 5.9 seconds remaining, OCCC missed a couple at the free-throw line.
With 4.1 seconds remaining, the visitors were all over B.J. McDowell in a last ditch effort to get possession, but he made both shots at the line to help the Generals corral the Colts, 69-65, at the final buzzer.
SCCC’s double-digit scorers included Jason Johnson (23 points), Michael Hines (14 points), Donte Harrison (10 points) and B.J. McDowell (10 points).
Double-digit scorers for OCCC were Benjamin Bowman (16 points), Latrell Peeks (16 points), Daniel Perez (12 points).
SCCC was 20-of-30 (67 percent) at the free-throw line, while OCCC was 19-of-34 (56 percent).
“It was a hard fought game, but it was definitely a better effort [for us] than the first game,” OCCC Coach Tom Rickard said.
“Our kids came to play,” he added.
SCCC Coach Chris DePew thanked his lucky stars and a few last-minute timeouts for the narrow victory.
“We were very, very lucky,” he said. “We got too comfortable at the end… we had an 11-point lead, but for the first time this year we won by under 10 points.”
“We thought it was over, thought we’d make our foul shots, but they didn’t foul us and we didn’t make our shots, we just turned the ball over,” DePew added.
Sometimes a few timeouts are better than bucks in a bank.
“Thank God I had some timeouts remaining,” DePew said. “I didn’t burn any in the first half, and we had some to bail us out of tight spots at the end.”
As Sullivan remains unbeaten, the rest of the teams are lining up to be the one to knock off the Generals.
“Teams are fighting for respect, they can make their whole season by beating us, the No. 1-ranked team in the nation,” DePew commented. “We have to be able to weather that storm every single night.”
The win over the Colts marked the halfway mark of SCCC’s 28-game regular season.
The Generals next home game “Down in the Bunker” at Paul Gerry Fieldhouse is set for 7 p.m. on Thursday, February 8.