By Rob Potter
LOCH SHELDRAKE The SUNY Sullivan Generals basketball team experienced a roller coaster of emotions on Tuesday.
During the day, the team found out that it had moved from No. 2 to No. 1 in the latest National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division III men’s basketball poll.
In the evening, however, the happiness over being ranked the top team in the nation turned to sadness. The visiting Westchester Community College Vikings defeated SUNY Sullivan, 91-87, in a Mid-Hudson Conference (MHC) game at Paul Gerry Fieldhouse.
Using a quick, transition offense, Westchester CC (7-13, 5-2 MHC) was able to take a 43-38 lead at halftime. The Vikings used that same strategy in the second 20 minutes of play. And the strategy paid off as they increased their advantage to 13 points at 67-54 midway through the second half as Anthony Oquendo scored inside the lane.
“Whenever they got a dunk or an easy basket, we wanted to get back down the court and score as quickly as we could,” Westchester Coach Tyrone Mushatt said. “It was a big win for us. When we played them in Westchester, they beat us 66-60. So we wanted to get out and run more in this game.”
Mushatt also noted the importance of his team’s defense.
“The key tonight was our defense,” he said. “We stayed in a 2-3 zone and tried to make the game a 1-on-1 game.”
Clutch foul shooting also helped the Vikings.
“In the last minute, one of my assistant coaches told me to put Fabean Blackwood in the game,” Mushatt said. “Fabean is not our best rebounder or our best passer, but he is our best free throw shooter. He made four in a row at the end of the game.”
Terence Henderson led Westchester CC with 23 points. Tevin Bracey and Shaquille Gaskins added 19 points and 14 points, respectively, for the Vikings.
To earn the victory, Westchester CC had to hold off a rally by the Generals in the final minutes. With 3:40 remaining, the Vikings enjoyed an 83-70 advantage. But the Generals cut that lead in the next two minutes. Cleanthony Early put back a missed shot with 57 seconds on the clock to bring SUNY Sullivan (19-2, 7-1 MHC) within four points at 84-80.
Westchester CC’s Bracey then swished two free throws to make the score 86-80.
But Frankie Drayton answered for the Generals with a 3-point shot to cut the Vikings’ lead to 86-83 with 44.3 seconds to go.
Following two foul shots by Westchester CC’s Blackwood, Drayton made a free throw to bring the Generals within four points at 88-84.
Unfortunately for Drayton and his teammates, that was as close as they could get in the final seconds. The Generals thought they had pulled to within two points when Anthony scored with 33.2 seconds left. But the basket was waived off by the officials, who called Anthony for a charge on the play.
“We played poorly tonight,” SUNY Sullivan Coach Kevin DeVantier said. “We shot the ball poorly and we didn’t guard anybody.
“They used a 2-3 zone defense the whole game and we had shots from the outside, but couldn’t make them,” DeVantier added.
DeVantier noted the Generals needed to be more consistent with their effort on the floor.
“We fought hard and played well in the last three minutes,” he commented. “If we had fought for the whole 40 minutes, the result might have been different. You can’t just turn it on at the end of the game and expect to win.”
Drayton paced the Generals’ offense by scoring a game-high 32 points. Early finished with 25 points and Willie Williams III netted 16 points.
SUNY Sullivan was looking to get back on the winning track last night in an NJCAA Region XV game at Bronx Community College.
“It’s the most important game of our season right now,” DeVantier said. “If Bronx wins, they will clinch the No. 1 seed in the upcoming Region XV Tournament. If we win, we put ourselves in a good position to be the No. 1 seed in the tournament.”