DOLPHINS FALL IN QUEST FOR CUNYAC THREE-PEAT

On a night when the Dolphins would shoot below their season lows, and connect on just 51.6% of their free-throws, the College of Staten Island men’s basketball was defeated by the No. 2 seeded York College Cardinals, 87-84, as part of the CUNYAC/Con Edison Men’s Basketball postseason Tournament Championship played at the Nat Holman Gymnasium on the campus of City College of New York.  Winners of 9-straight games, the Cardinals will advance to the NCAA Division III National Championship Tournament with a 21-7 record.  CSI, which saw its 24-game win streak snapped, fell to 25-3, and will hope for the same fate when the NCAA selects its 62-team field on Monday morning.

Contrary to the final score, it looked like York was going to run away with the game, opening up huge lead just minutes into the game thanks to hot shooting, and a CSI squad that got into early foul trouble and were plagued with turnovers.  The Cardinals ripped off the game’s first eight points, guided by five markers from CUNYAC Most Valuable Player Michael Woods.  After CSI scored the next five points to make it 8-5 just 3:28 into the game, York used a dazzling, 14-0, run, to take a 22-5 lead at 13:59, in an almost carbon-copy opening to their semifinal game against Lehman College, a game they went on to win by 24 points.  The 14-0 run featured 12 points from Woods, the last four coming on a three-pointer and the point after, having been fouled.  

CSI turned the ball over on its next possession and Woods followed by missing a three that would have opened up a gaping hole, and from there, CSI started to awaken.  Back-to-back Will Fonseca layups got the Dolphins started, and Fonseca then added four more at the free-throw line.  Later, a three-pointer by Bloochy Magloire cut the York lead to single digits, 29-20, with 9:27 to go. The teams pawed back-and-forth until again, CSI started to power back.  This time after York grabbed an 11-point lead, CSI closed on an 11-4 tear over the last four-plus minutes of the stanza.  Eight of those CSI points came in the paint, as CSI started to power inside thanks to Fonseca, Javon Cox and Dylan Bulger.

In what was a victory of sorts, CSI found themselves down only four at halftime, 40-36.  It was a good result considering two Dolphins starters, Jonathan Chadwick-Myers and Matt Van Manen were both held scoreless in the first half, thanks largely to sitting lengthy minutes in foul trouble.

In the second half of play, the whistles dominated, as there was a total of 29 fouls were called, leading to 39 free-throws, and when it came to that statistic, it was all red for CSI, as York connected on 16-of-21 shot attempts (after going a perfect 7-for-7 in the first frame) while Dolphins shot an ice-cold 7-18 from the foul line, including two front-ends of one-and-one opportunities that left countless points unaccounted for.

Still, the Dolphins were ironically able to power forward.  The Cardinals extended to an eight-point lead to start the stanza, but from there the Dolphins made their move.  A Cox layup got things started, and then Chadwick-Myers connected for his first points on an inside drive at 17:29.  After a Fonseca bucket and a free-throw, Cox also split a pair of free-throws, tying the score 46-46.  Again, CSI went to the line, but again, CSI could only make one of two and Cox gave the Dolphins their first lead of the game, 47-46, at 16:22 to play.

There was plenty of time to go, and York wasted none of it, responding with an immediate 8-0 run, helped along by an emphatic dunk by Omar St. John.  The teams traded baskets, and misses, from there, and CSI was able to cut the York lead down to a single possession on five different possessions as the clock dwindled down.  Finally, at 9:41, Magloire took over connecting on back-to-back three-pointers to give CSI back the lead at 66-65.  Later in the frame, CSI grabbed their largest lead on another Magloire bomb, this time at 7:29 to give the Dolphins a 72-69 lead.  Again, it didn’t last long.  York’s Donald Rodriguez answered the bell connecting on a three from in front of his own bench, tying the game.  Then, after another Fonseca freebie gave CSI a one point lead, Rodriguez buried another three from the same spot to give York back the lead, 75-73, and the Cardinals wrestled away control.

CSI did not go quietly, however, but they also failed to capitalize in big moments.  Down by two, the Dolphins were able to force a YC turnover, but turned it right back over on a Fonseca offensive foul at 5:04.  Down by three points at 4:15, CSI held York to five straight scoreless possessions, but in return the Dolphins committed a turnover, missed three lay-up attempts and CSI’s Frankie Schettino missed a pair of free-throws.  

Finally, down by two with 1:40 to go, CSI made one of their biggest plays of the night, when Schettino found himself open on the arc and nailed a three-pointer to give CSI the 84-83 lead.  Unfortunately for the Dolphins though, not only would they never score again, but they would fail to even get off a shot.  Woods took the control for York and made his own shot, extending from the free throw line to give York back the lead 85-84, with 1:22 to go.  CSI then turned the ball over, but with 17 seconds to play, York gave it right back via the turnover.  Unable to find an open man, Schettino drove into the lane for CSI but he turned it over as well, this time with four seconds to play, fouling Woods in the process.

With four seconds to play, CSI had one last gasp.  After Woods knocked down his free throws, CSI asked for time to try and run another play.  Javon Cox toed the baseline throwing a line drive pass to an open Fonseca near midcourt, but the extending Fonseca couldn’t bring the ball down, and York’s St. John was there to take it away, running out the second or two on the clock and sending the York bench and crowd into a frenzy at center court.  A dismayed CSI unit was stunned with the outcome, and needless to say, disappointed in the defeat.

CSI head coach Tony Petosa, who sits three wins shy of 400, was solemn in defeat, but praised his opponents.  “They deserved the win tonight and they just played better than us,” he said.  “We didn’t play the kind of game we wanted tonight.  We didn’t move the ball around, couldn’t get comfortable, and we missed way too many foul shots.”

For the game the Dolphins shot a less-than-average 44.3%, but their shooting from beyond the arc (37.5%) and free-throw line (52%) left much to be desired.  The Dolphins won the rebounding edge, 49-40, including a 23-11 edge on the offensive glass, but CSI also committed 17 turnovers.  The Dolphins were led by Cox’s 23 points in 25 foul-plagued minutes.  Fonseca added 21 points, earning Tournament All-Star honors with teammate Chadwick-Myers.  Magloire chimed in with 16 points, while Schettino scattered 10 points with 9 assists.  

MVP honors were obvious, and Woods was the unanimous choice.  The forward poured in 36 points on 11-23 shooting from the floor and a perfect 11-11 on the foul line.  York shot 82.1% from the free-throw line, and 47.6% from three-point range.  The Cardinals also got 24 points from St. John.  Jaron Williams had 9 points and 10 rebounds in 20 minutes of action before fouling out.

For now, the Dolphins season is over, but a postseason berth is imminent.  Ranked No. 18 nationally by D3hoops.com and third regionally by the NCAA, CSI will hope now to gain a coveted at-large bid to the NCAA National Tournament.  If that doesn’t hold, it will likely be the ECAC Metro BY/NJ Tourney for the Dolphins.

“We are not going to feel sorry for ourselves,” said Petosa.  “We’ve had a fine season and it’s out of our hands.  Wherever and whoever we play, we still have to go out there and play.  So we need to pick ourselves up and move on.”

CSI will learn its postseason fate on Monday.  Be sure to consult www.csidolphins.com for the latest.

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