It took a valiant comeback and an extra overtime frame, but the College of Staten Island men’s basketball squad punched their ticket to the CUNYAC Championship Final, with a thrilling, 73-70, overtime win over No. 4 Brooklyn College in their semifinal played this evening at the Nat Holman Gymnasium at City College of New York. The win gets the Dolphins to their first Final berth since the 2006-07 season, upping the record to 17-9 this season (10-3 CUNYAC). No. 1 CSI will face Medgar Evers College, a 61-53 winner over Hunter College in the second semifinal game that took place.
In what could be coined a very frustrating game for the Dolphins, CSI was forced to come back time and again against the crisp Bulldogs, who consistently pressured the Dolphins into turnovers, bruising the top-seeds with strong transition play. T.J. Tibbs’ jumper for CSI got them started but Brooklyn fired back with five straight points, and that started a 15-minute stretch where the Bulldogs assumed control. Transition lay-ups by Tyshawn Russell and Amil John staked Brooklyn to their biggest lead, 13-5, at the 12:48 mark, as CSI struggled to get off quality shots.
After CSI cut into the lead, another John lay-up gave BC a 20-12 lead before CSI rallied, using a 14-5 run spanning four minutes of play to give the top-seeds a slim, 26-25, edge with just over four minutes to play in the stanza. The run featured three inside powering drives by CSI junior Jordan Young, who helped CSI to a 10-2 halftime edge in second-chance scoring thanks to four offensive rebounds. The lead, however, was short-lived, as a Keiran Halton jumper gave BC the lead right back. The two teams traded six final points each inside the final four minutes to stake Brooklyn to a modest, 33-32, halftime edge.
Shooting just 0-1 with a whopping six turnovers, CSI was the victim of a 6-1 Bulldogs run over the first 5:31 of the final frame as they once again shot ahead by six points, 39-33. After Young and John traded baskets, CSI then used an 8-0 run of their own, powered by a pair of Bloochy Magliore three-pointers to race to a 43-41 edge with 12:20 to go. CSI appeared to seize momentum, but it was the Bulldogs that came out on fire from there, using a numbing 17-4 run over the next seven minutes to take their biggest lead of the game, 58-47, with just 6:02 to play. Russell buried four critical free-throws on the run with a jumper mixed in.
CSI had time for one more run, and with three players playing with four fouls, the Dolphins rose to the challenge. Young knocked in two freebies to start a run, and after a missed BC jumper, Young was fouled and buried another two free-throws to make it 58-51 with 5:07 to go. Russell then turned the ball over on Brooklyn’s next possession, and CSI converted on the error via a Young lay-up to make it 58-53. After Ahmad Hemingway missed a long-range two-pointer, CSI’s Dale Taranto found an open Magliore who buried another trey to make it a 58-56 game with just 3:49 to play. Then, after another Hemingway miss, Young caught the BC defense out of position, converting another easy layup to knot the game at 58-58 apiece with 3:03 to go.
CSI again appeared to take control, when after a John free-throw for Brooklyn, Taranto converted an off-the-glass lay-up and after a BC turnover Tibbs converted two freebies to make it 62-59 with 1:55 to go, but BC refused to go away. In a controversial twist, Young was whistled for his fourth foul on a Darnell Cudjoe driving lay-up. Cudjoe tallied the lay-in and converted the free-throw to knot the game. Taranto then turned the ball over for the Dolphins and John converted to give BC back the lead. CSI then turned to Magliore again, who drove inside and converted a tough jumper off of the glass to knot the game again at :48, at 64-64.
There would be no scoring after that although both teams had their chances. Russell would miss a short jumper with 15 ticks remaining and down to a final possession, Magliore hoisted a three-point baseline jumper that hit halfway home before rattling out with 1.1 ticks remaining. BC asked for time, and upon return their inbounds pass was intercepted by Magliore, who quickly hoisted a shot from about five feet beyond the arc that clanked off the front rim, insuring there would be an overtime.
In the extra frame, the Bulldogs pulled ahead twice on layups by John and Hemingway sandwiched between a Magliore jumper. Down by two with 2:05 to go, it was Tibbs’ turn to step up, as the junior buried a straight-away three pointer with a hand in his face to stake CSI to a 69-68 lead. Hemingway did not let the lead stand converting a layup just five seconds later to give Brooklyn back to the lead, 70-69.
From there, however, the game belonged to CSI. Young received a feed in the low post and converted a driving lay-up, getting fouled in the process. Young buried his freebie to give CSI a 72-70 lead with :32 left. Brooklyn worked for a final shot, with Cudjoe finally hoisting a short jumper which did not catch the rim, and the rebound was corralled by Young who was promptly fouled. Young buried one of two free throws to get CSI up, 73-70. Down to one final attempt, Russell’s three-pointer from the right sideline banged hard off of the rim, as the CSI bench erupted with the final horn.
After shooting just 38.2% from the floor in the first half, CSI responded to shoot a respectable 13-for-27 in the second stanza and overtime combined. The Dolphins were led by Young’s 29 markers, as the junior added a game-high 14 rebounds. Tibbs finished with 16 points, while Magliore tallied a final count of 12 points, all coming after halftime. For the Bulldogs, Hemingway led the call with 19 points, followed by John’s 18 and Russell’s 16. The Dolphins took a 43-37 edge on the boards, but were the victim of 21 turnovers to Brooklyn’s 14.
CSI will next face No. 2 Medgar Evers College, which pulled ahead late against No. 6 Hunter and held on for a 61-53 victory. Championship game time is set for 5pm at the Nat Holman Gymnasium on Saturday, February 26. The last time CSI faced Medgar Evers in postseason play was in the 2002 CUNYAC Championship, a 59-57 CSI win, marking the Dolphins’ last championship.