By Rob Potter
SULLIVAN COUNTY For the second straight year, the eight best National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division III men’s basketball teams have made their way to Sullivan County to compete in the 2012 NJCAA Div. III National Championship Tournament at Paul Gerry Fieldhouse on the campus of SUNY Sullivan in Loch Sheldrake.
Unfortunately for local college hoops fans, the host SUNY Sullivan Generals did not qualify for this year’s tournament. After finishing third in last year’s tourney, the Generals were hoping to return this year and win the fifth men’s basketball national championship in school history. But the Generals were upset by Nassau Community College, 70-69, on March 3 in the semifinals of the NJCAA Region XV Tournament.
Bronx Community College then defeated Nassau CC in the Region XV championship game to earn a berth in the national tourney.
“We are so disappointed that our team is not playing in the national tournament,” SUNY Sullivan Athletic Director Chris DePew said. “But we have eight great teams here and are hoping that local basketball fans come out to the games.
“We are having two special halftime ceremonies during the tournament,” he added. “At halftime of the 5 p.m. game on Saturday, we will be honoring our undefeated 2007 Sullivan Generals national championship team. Then at halftime of the 7 p.m. game on Saturday, we will be honoring our undefeated 1992 Sullivan Generals national championship team.”
DePew noted that every member of the 1992 title team is expected to attend the ceremony. He said that most of the members of the 2007 title team will be at the ceremony, but some will miss it because they are still in school or playing basketball overseas.
The tournament began with four games yesterday afternoon and evening. It continues today with games at noon, 2 p.m., 5 p.m and 7 p.m.
The seventh place game will tip-off at noon tomorrow. The fourth place game is set for 2 p.m. tomorrow.
The final two contests of the tournament are the third place games at 5 p.m. tomorrow and the championship game at 7 p.m. tomorrow.
DePew noted that last year’s tournament had a positive impact on the local economy.
“A lot of people were traveling that corridor between Loch Sheldrake and Liberty to go to restaurants and go to stores.
“We’re excited about hosting the tournament this year and next year,” DePew added. “We want to keep the tournament here from 2014 to 2016. I will be making a bid to host the tournament for those three years at an NJCAA meeting in Colorado Springs on March 28.”
Sullivan County Visitors Association President/CEO Roberta Byron-Lockwood is among those who would like to see the tournament be played at SUNY Sullivan for the next several years.
“The financial impact of last year’s tournament on the county was just under $200,000,” Byron-Lockwood said. “It’s a great event for Sullivan County. There is a lot of enthusiasm and excitement for the tournament. A lot of the people who came to last year’s tournament are returning this year to enjoy all the beauty of our backyard.”