The top-seeded College of Staten Island men’s basketball squad advanced to their third straight CUNYAC Final tonight, finding enough in the end to weather a tough No. 4 Brooklyn College storm to score a 71-65 decision in front of a frenzied crowd at the Nat Holman Gymnasium on the campus of City College of New York as part of the 48th Annual CUNYAC/Con Edison Men’s Basketball Championship Semifinals. The win, CSI’s season-high sixth straight, lifted the team to 21-5 overall, and a date in the Final on Saturday at 5pm against No. 3 John Jay College. Brooklyn College finalized its season at 12-14.
If the early stages were any indication, than the first semifinal of the evening was going to come right down to the wire, as the teams exchanged six lead changes through the first 10 minutes. Red-hot shooting staked the Bulldogs to an early 9-4 lead at 18:09 aided by a pair of Steven Grant baskets, the last a three-pointer. CSI rallied for a 10-4 run over the next three minutes, powered by two straight Bloochy Magloire buckets to give CSI its first of three leads in the half, 14-13. The teams sparred back-and-forth from there, exchanging baskets until a Matt Van Manen transition basket in the paint gave the top-seeded Dolphins a 20-19 edge that they would never relinquish in the first half.
On four occasions the Dolphins went up by as many as five points but couldn’t seem to shed the Bulldogs, as the four-seeds continued to power back. A Brooklyn basket by Edon Gjonbalaj narrowed CSI’s lead to 30-27 at 3:49 before CSI made its most important first-half surge. Jonathan Chadwick-Myers got the Dolphins started with an inside transition drive, and after a quick BC miss, Magloire found Van Manen for a fast-break layup to put CSI up, 34-27. After a Grant miss on Brooklyn’s side of the floor, Van Manen converted again from underneath on a crisp dish from Dylan Bulger, giving CSI their biggest lead of the frame, 36-27, with just 1:49 to go. CSI would only score a single digit, via a Van Manen free-throw, from there, taking a 37-29 lead into the lockers.
At the break, CSI held a 30-14 edge in rebounds, but the Bulldogs proved stingy, committing just two turnovers, keeping their chances in line with CSI’s.
In the early stages of the second frame a Van Manen lay-up got CSI started, and then a Chadwick-Myers three canceled out a Jeffrey Noel three to give CSI its biggest lead, 42-32, at 18:45. With plenty of time still in the game, BC was ready for its comeback, and after a time-out, the Bulldogs amped up the defensive pressure, forcing six CSI turnovers over three and a half minutes to stage an 11-0 run and grab back the lead, 43-42. BC leading scorer and CUNYAC All-Star Kevon Baker was the catalyst in the run, scoring eight Bulldogs points. Answering the call, CSI leading scorer Magloire stepped up, draining a long-range bomb to start what would be the first of five lead changes over the next three minutes.
Brooklyn went up by a field goal on a pair of occasions, the last on a Grant lay-in, part of 12 second-half points, giving the Bulldogs a 51-49 lead with 12:05 to go. Unfortunately for his unit, the lead would prove to be BC’s last, as a Javon Cox three-point play gave the lead back to the defending champs, 52-51. After a BC miss and turnover, Cox converted again on an inside drive, and after another turnover, CSI’s Herschel Jenkins converted a pair of freebies to give CSI a more comfortable, 56-51, edge with 9:08 to go.
Still, the CSI lead was far from secure, and BC would get back to within one, 60-59, on a Grant trey with 4:51 to go. Mired in a tough shooting night, Magloire took the initiative to stop the run, blowing by the Brooklyn defense to convert a lay-up to put CSI back up by three. Two possessions later with the score unchanged, Magloire unleashed another bomb from nearly four feet behind the three-point line, finding nothing but twine and expanding CSI to a 65-59 edge with 2:50 to go. BC would cut the lead to two, 65-63 with 1:03 left, but on the ensuing possession, Chadwick-Myers connected on a pair of free-throws to set the stage for CSI to ice the game at the line. BC missed their final two shots of regulation inside of a minute and four free-throws by Magloire, who finished 6-6 from the stripe, secured the CSI win, but not without a tremendous fight by the Bulldogs, who had dropped 11 and 15-point decisions to CSI earlier in the season.
CSI finished the game shooting just 38.1% from the floor (24-63), and committed 13 turnovers to Brooklyn’s eight. The Dolphins countered, however, with their proficiency on the glass, out-rebounding the smaller Bulldogs, 52-33, on the night. CSI was led by Javon Cox’s monster 17-point, 17-rebound performance. Magloire added another 17, while Van Manen finished with 13 points and Chadwick-Myers 14. For Brooklyn, Grant led all scorers with 21 points adding six rebounds. Baker added 19 points on 9-for-20 shooting, while Noel finalized with 13 points.
For CSI, the win moved them into their third-straight CUNYAC Championship. In 2011, the team fell to Medgar Evers, 62-56, and in 2012, CSI exacted revenge on the Cougars via an 82-81 win en route to their NCAA Sweet Sixteen appearance a year ago.
The CUNYAC Championship will take place on Saturday, February 23, at 5pm. No. 3 John Jay took care of No. 2 Baruch College, 73-62, in their semifinal to punch their ticket to the Final. The two teams split their regular-season series with both teams winning on their home floor. Tickets are free for the final but fans will need a ticket to enter. Tickets are available through online order only at www.cunyathletics.com. CSI is also providing a free fan bus that will depart the CSI Sports & Recreation Center at 3pm on a first-come, first-served basis.