The College of Staten Island men’s basketball squad advanced to the Tournament of Heroes Championship Final for the fifth consecutive year, turning back Misericordia University by a 66-58 count this afternoon at the Sports & Recreation Center. CSI (5-3) will now take on William Paterson, who also won today in their opening game of the tournament, 71-58, over PSU-Behrend. The Cougars saw their two-game win streak snapped, as they fell to 7-3. The Tournament of Heroes serves to honor the memories of former CSI men’s basketball players Terrance Aiken, Scott Davidson, and Tom Hannafin, who perished at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.
Things looked bleak for the Dolphins at the start of this one, as MU ripped off the first 11 points of the game, powered by a couple of James Hawk inside drives to the hoop. CSI promptly called timeout to recollect themselves, and they did so successfully, answering back the Cougars to the tune of a 14-0 run over the next four and a half minutes. Thomas Delahanty scored CSI’s first two buckets in the run, and then Will Fonseca connected on another pair of buckets, the first an emphatic dunk to cut the lead to 11-7. Fonseca’s two free-throws ultimately gave CSI a 14-11 lead with 14 minutes to play in the frame.
From there, the teams traded the lead a total of six times, trading hoops and getting to the line often. A three-pointer by Jacob Battle at 5:42 gave MU their biggest lead since the opening stages, 28-24, but again CSI answered with a mini 6-0 run, grabbing the lead on a pair of Frank Schettino free-throws at 3:25, never to give it back again. CSI went into the lockers with a 34-30 advantage, finishing the frame on a 10-2 run in the final six minutes.
After trading a couple of baskets to start the second stanza, CSI eased in to an eight-point lead at 14:08 on a Schettino running jumper in the lane. The Cougars would whittle the lead down to 48-47 on an Erik Kerns three-point play, but again CSI pulled ahead via a 7-0 run capped by a Fonseca layup at 6:54 that gave CSI a 57-49 edge.
With one last gasp, MU cut CSI’s lead to 59-55 with 3:19 remaining. CSI would miss a jumper but Vincent Dacunto would come up with a big offensive rebound and find an open Delahanty underneath to give CSI a 61-55 edge with 2:41 to go. The Cougars had a golden opportunity but missed a pair of open three-pointers on their next two offensive trips, and then with the shot clock winding down with just 45 seconds left overall, Schettino picked a perfect time to make CSI’s only three-pointer of the game, giving CSI its biggest lead of the game at 64-55, leading to the eventual 66-58 win.
Fonseca and Schettino both finished with 22 points for CSI with Fonseca adding 11 rebounds and Schettino, seven assists. Mohamed Marie chimed in off of the bench with 10 points for the Dolphins along with four rebounds. Hawk finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds for the visitors, with Joe Busacca adding 11 points. Both teams struggled from beyond the arc, connecting on a total of three shots on 22 attempts. CSI committed just eight turnovers, forcing 13 by Misericordia. The Dolphins also held a modest, 38-36, edge on the glass.
Up next for CSI is William Paterson, who broke away late in a 71-58 winner over previously-unbeaten Penn State – Behrend. The Pioneers were led by Sandy Burgos’ 21 point performance, while PSU countered with 19 points from Nick DeLisio. It will be the first meeting between the two sides in Tournament of Heroes play, and CSI is 1-1 all-time against William Paterson. Tip off for the Championship Final will be at 7:30pm. It will be preceded by MIsericordia vs. PSU-Behrend at 5:30pm.