For the first time since 2001-02, the College of Staten Island men’s basketball team has claimed the CUNYAC/Con Edison Championship, doing it in thrilling fashion tonight over No. 6 seeded and defending-champion Medgar Evers College, 82-81, in the Final played this evening at the Nat Holman Gymnasium at City College of New York.  The win for the Dolphins (24-4) insured them of a berth into the NCAA Division III National Championship Tournament, with the official draw announced on Monday afternoon.  MEC dropped to 17-11 overall, and will await word on further postseason as well.

In a first half that featured four lead changes in the early minutes, the pace was feverish, as Medgar Evers bounced off a 5-0 start before CSI used an 8-0 run powered by two T.J. Tibbs baskets, one from behind the arc to take back the lead.  That was short-lived and Kayode Prime scored a pair of baskets in a 6-0 run to take back the lead, 11-8, sending a message to the spectators that the Final would be one for the ages.

With the score knotted at 16-16, CSI used a 15-5 run powered by aother pair of Tibbs and Bloochy Magloire three’s to open up a nine-point lead, inflating CSI’s lead.  MEC again responded, as Javon Deare led a charge that cut CSI’s lead to 31-30 just moments later.  With time for one last run, the Dolphins were the team to respond, executing yet another 15-5 run, this time highlighted by a Tibbs three at the buzzer, to give CSI a commanding 46-35 lead at intermission.  Tibbe finished the frame leading all scorers with 20 points, as the MEC all-star tandem of Winston Douglas and Dears were combining to shoot just 4-of-19 from the floor.

That would change in the second half, as the Cougars used two quick 6-0 runs to cut the Dolphins’ lead to a single possession. The latter made the score 64-62 with 7:49 left in the game. A Douglas basket with just under four minutes on the clock made the game even closer, 73-72. But senior forward Jordan Young’s move to the basket (13 points, five rebounds) kept CSI in the drivers seat.

Then with 1:04 remaining in regulation, the Cougars got the CSI lead down to one point again when Douglas sank his second three-pointer of the game. CSI eventaully got the ball back to Tibbs, who missed only his fifth trey of the night (he was 6-11 from long distance) and Medgar Evers had their chance. With 27 ticks on the clock and the shot clock off, MEC was having trouble getting an open look, finally calling timeout with 3.5 seconds left.  With no more timeouts, MEC was forced in inbound from near center court, and a feed to Deare was bobbled and then knocked away by CSI’s Tibbs, leaving the ball to bounce harmlessly away as the clock expired, sending the CSi players into hysterics.

With the win, CSI will go back to the NCAA Division III Men’s Basketball Championship for the first time in ten seasons and the fourth time under head coach Tony Petosa, who was the Tournament MVP back in 1986 in his senior year with the Dolphins.

“I really truly believe we were the best team in the conference this year,” said Petosa, now in his 22nd season at the helm. “I really feel our kids carried themselves the way a team should carry themselves and I really feel they deserve to win the whole thing, but you’re only as good as your seniors lead you. You can’t win without maturity.”

Besides Tibbs, the offensive contributions from sophomore swingman Magloire cannot get overlooked. Magliore finished the day with 19 points (3-4 on three-pointers) after tying Tibbs with 16 points in the semifinals last Tuesday.

The Cougars were led by CUNYAC / Con Edison Player of the Year Douglas, who struggled in the first half with nine points on 2-7 shooting, but rebounded to finish with 24 points (8-19 from the field, 2-4 from the arc and 6-6 from the line) and a game high 15 rebounds (8 offensive). Deare also had a strong offensive game with 22 points, but had to carry too much of the workload carrying the ball for the Cougars, who only had seven players to finish the season and he committed eight turnovers.

“We left it all out there, we made sure the last play we left our hearts all out there,” claimed Magliore, who went down hard in the first half, but only missed three minutes of action on the night, “And that’s why we have the trophy now.”

The Tibbs chirped in with his take on Magliore. “I was thinking about when Bloochy went down, I thought it was top play on SportCenter. But I knew he was gonna get up, its championship game, unless he was dead he was getting up.”  Tibbs was referring to a dunk over MEC’s Douglas, who spilled Magloire to the ground for several minutes via a hard foul.

Also in double digits for MEC was Brian Johnson with 14 and Prime with 12 points

Last season, the Cougars surprised the region, under the direction of then second-year head coach Chris Pursoo, to take the school’s first CUNYAC title in twenty years. In the semifinals on Tuesday night, both teams cruised to get to the championship again, as CSI beat #4 Baruch 73-63 and Medgar Evers topped #7 York, 80-64.

Tibbs easily took home MVP honors, leading all scorers with 31 points, tying a career-high for the senior.  Along with Tibbs, the 2012 CUNYAC / Con Edison All-Tournament Team consisted of CSI’s Magliore and Young, MEC’s Deare and Douglas,  Baruch’s Chris Beauhamp and York’s William Holley.

Selections for the 2012 NCAA Division III Men’s Basketball Championship will be announced on Monday, with competition beginning later in the week at sites to be determined.- Excerpts of this story courtesy of CUNYAC Sports Information