The College of Staten Island men’s basketball team suffered from a poor shooting night, getting close enough but never able to take over an up-for-grabs game, as the Dolphins fell to the No. 2 seeded Medgar Evers Cougars, 62-56, in the 46th Annual CUNYAC/Con Edison Men’s Basketball Postseason Championship played at Nat Holman Gymnasium on the campus of City College of New York. The top-seeded Dolphins fell to 17-10 overall, while the Cougars took down the twine to improve to 17-11 overall and an automatic berth into the NCAA Division III Postseason Championship Tournament.
The Dolphins rebounded from a lackluster start to earn a pair of modest first half leads. After Matt Van Manen’s driving layup got the Dolphins started, CSI fell behind as MEC converted four straight baskets, ending on a pair outside jumpers by James Gilmore and Winston Douglas. Down 8-6, the Dolphins responded with a 7-0 run, which featured a three-ball by T.J. Tibbs, flanked by Jordan Young and Dale Taranto buckets.
From there though, CSI suffered through a shooting funk that they never truly recovered from. It took inside of just two minutes to erase the lead, as Medgar Evers powered to an 11-1 run to take a a 19-14 edge, highlighted by another pair of Douglas baskets, the last coming on an emphatic fast-break dunk at 10:23. CSI would close to one on a Tibbs layup on the next trip down the floor, and later would bury another trey to cut the Medgar lead down to two, 29-27, at 6:51. Tony Sims came right back, however, to answer with a three for the Cougars, and two possessions later, another Douglas basket from the outside gave the Cougars their biggest lead, 36-29, with 4:22 to go in the opening stanza. Neither team would score in the final 2:14 of the frame, as MEC went into the lockers up, 37-32.
The second half then became an exercise in CSI trying to cut down the MEC lead. The Dolphins were successful on a number of occasions, but poor shooting touch and sloppy ball-handling did the top-seeds in on nearly every turn. MEC secured their biggest lead of the game, 43-35, on a Gilmore jumper. CSI responded with a 9-2 run to close to one, 45-44, with 12:58 to play in a run highlighted by six straight points from Tibbs. But MEC responded through Douglas who popped in two jumpers in between a Tibbs miss from three-point range to put cushion back into the lead.
CSI cut into the lead again via consecutive layups by Van Manen and Bloochy Magliore, but again, converted baskets by MEC’s Robert Johnson and Jovan Deare bookending a Magliore turnover got MEC up by five again, 53-48, with 10:11 to go. and then CSI hit a wall, making just two of their next 10 shots with five turnovers over the next 6:34. The Cougars, however, couldn’t do much better, going just 0-3 from the floor, and 1-7 from the free-throw line with eight turnovers over the same stretch.
Finally, with CSI down by a bucket with 3:36 to go, Young hit the charity stripe with a chance to tie the game, but in an ominous sign, the junior made just the front end as CSI continued to trail, 54-53. A layup by Gilmore stopped the bleeding for MEC just twenty seconds later, putting the Cougars back up by three. CSI promptly turned the ball over and after a foul, Douglas hit one of two free-throws for MEC to make it a 57-53 advantage with 2:38 to go.
Magliore followed with two free-throws on CSI’s next possession, leading to the turning point of the game. A Douglas turnover gave the ball back to CSI, but Tibbs missed a driving layup, which was mishandled by MEC’s Kayode Prime, giving CSI back the ball. Tibbs then uncorked an open three from the left but misfired again, but CSI got the rebound again, only Young misplayed an intended pass for Taranto right into the hands of MEC’s Jarrel Deare, who was fouled and made both ends to swing control and full momentum to MEC, 59-55.
With :55 left, CSI still clung to life, as Young was fouled by Deare. Young again made only one and CSI quickly fouled. Inexplicably, MEC missed both free-throws, yet got their own rebound. CSI still held Gilmore to a layup miss, giving CSI some life, but a Van Manen pass was intercepted by Sims, who made a free-throw. Then he made two more as CSI fumbled away the next possession to make the final, 62-56. CSI went the final 5:06 without converting a field goal, missing another two shots as the buzzer sounded.
In their poorest shooting performance of the season, CSI shot a chilly 31.6% (18-57), hitting just 2-of-12 from behind the arc. Tibbs led all CSI scorers with 22 points adding five rebounds, while Young dropped in 19 points and 9 caroms. The rest of CSI shot just 6-of-25 (24%) from the field, 0-for-6 from three-point range, and 3-for-7 from the charity stripe. MEC was led by Tournament Most Valuable Player Douglas, who despite seven turnovers, managed 17 points and 14 rebounds. Gilmore popped in 12 markers, while Johnson managed 10.
For CSI, this marks the official close of their season, but the team is hoping for advanced postseason invitational play. Both the NCAA and the ECAC will determine their postseason fields on Monday (approximately 3pm). Be sure to follow the latest on www.csidolphins.com for the latest information.