By Lori Brown
LOCH SHELDRAKE SUNY Sullivan rallied from a 10-point deficit in the second half to defeat Suffolk Community College, 79-74, in a National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Region XV game at Paul Gerry Fieldhouse Saturday.
The second half provided plenty of edge-of-your-seat suspense as Suffolk (11-6) took a 50-40 lead with 14:36 remaining in the contest.
But Sullivan came back to tie the game at 58-58 with eight minutes left when Cleanthony Early made a pair of foul shots after teammate William Davis Jr. swished a 3-point on the Generals’ previous possession.
At the 7:21 mark, Early gave Sullivan its first lead of the second half by converting another free throw.
However, Suffolk regained the lead and stretched that advantage to five points with 3:20 to go. Early answered for Sullivan (19-1) by making two more foul shots to even the score at 71-71 with 1:37 remaining.
Following a timeout, the Sullivan offense was on fire, scoring eight straight points to take a 79-71 lead. The Generals’ defense limited the Sharks to three points for the rest of the game to secure the five-point victory.
While it’s always good to record a victory, SUNY Sullivan Coach Kevin DeVantier wasn’t totally pleased following the game.
“Today’s game was not good, it was very disappointing,” he said. “We don’t play like this. I give credit to Suffolk.
“The last five minutes of the game, we fought hard,” DeVantier added. “With a record of 19-1, everybody gives us their best shot. We played good enough to win. We were down 10 points with 10 minutes to go. William Davis Jr. had some big shots. The bench did a good job stepping up.”
Early, who was 9 of 11 at the free-throw line, scored 13 points in the second half and a team-high 20 for the game. Willie Williams III scored 12 points during the second half and recorded a double-double of 18 points and 18 rebounds.
Frankie Drayton and Marvin Jean each netted 14 points for Sullivan. Drayton also dished out five assists, while Jean grabbed eight rebounds.
Suffolk took a 5-0 lead to start the game. Sullivan replied with an eight-point run to grab the advantage. For the rest of the first half, the teams took turns taking the lead.
But neither team was able to extend its lead to more than five points.
With only 2.6 seconds remaining in the half, Suffolk’s Brandon Sillaro scored a basket to give his team a 36-34 advantage at halftime.
Blake Evans was the leading scorer for Suffolk with 18 points. Teammate Nasha Smith added 15 points for the Sharks.
Sullivan, which is the No. 2-ranked NJCAA Division III team in the nation, returns to the court at Paul Gerry Fieldhouse at 7 p.m. tonight to play Westchester Community College in a Mid-Hudson Conference game.
“It is going to be a tough game,” DeVantier said. “If we win this game, we win the Mid-Hudson Conference.”