After falling behind by as many as 12 points in the second half, the College of Staten Island men’s basketball team came all the way back to score an 82-79 win over Brooklyn College as part of ECAC Metro NY/NJ Postseason Tournament Semifinal play at the West Quad Center in Brooklyn, NY, this evening. The win lifted the Dolphins to 19-9 overall and advance them to the ECAC Final on Sunday evening at 7:30pm against New York University, a winner in their semifinal game as well.
It was a hotly-contested affair from the word go at Brooklyn, and both teams played a terrific opening stanza that came with plenty of highlights and swings in play, setting the course for a great finish.
A couple of easy open baskets by Valon Djombalic down low and three by Jai Kellman gave BC an early, 7-2, edge, quickly erased by an 11-2 CSI run sparked by three Edin Bracic three-pointers. Play stayed at a quick pace as BC countered by taking a 17-15 lead via a 9-2 run, but after BC took a 19-17 lead at 10:45, the team went ice-cold and CSI took advantage, going on an 8-0 run over the next five minutes to pull up, 25-19. Michael Tate, who was excellent off of the bench all evening for the Dolphins, started the rally.
Alas, BC came barking back. Two three’s by Egzon Gjonbalaj and another by Lorenzo Williams would force a 34-34 tie, and later Gjonbalaj gave BC a 39-37 lead. Down to a last shot, CSI’s Frank Schettino drilled a buzzer-beating NBA three to give CSI the halftime edge, 40-39.
It took just 38 seconds into the second half for BC to assume the lead, and the Bulldogs looked like a team that was poised for a runaway win, forcing turnover after turnover for the Dolphins, and building their lead with each step. BC used a numbing 13-0 run, to record a 57-45 lead with 15:13 to go, powered by a pair of Williams baskets, one of them turned into a three-point play.
From there, however, CSI started to turn the tide, thanks to an amp up of the defensive pressure and some clutch shooting. Will Fonseca, limited to five first half points started with five straight points, and Thomas Delahanty followed with a bucket. After a nice response by BC to put the hosts up by 10 with 12:23 to go, CSI again went back to work, going on a 10-2 run, ending with another Schettino three.
BC kept CSI at bay for awhile but the Dolphins were looking to break through and seized their moment with five and a half minutes to play. Down six, Mohamed Marie canned a three and then landed a runner in the paint on the ensuing possession. While BC was struggling on their end, Tate converted a pair of free-throws to finally give CSI a 71-70 edge, leading to a spirited ending.
In what could be considered the biggest swing of the game, down 75-73, BC’s Gjonbalaj missed a free-throw but Djombalic got the rebound. With a chance to tie, Jamel Gist missed an open lay-up and CSI raced the other way. Tate would miss a layup but following on the play was Fonseca who dunked the ball home to put CSI up 77-73 with 2:48 to play.
The teams traded points from there, and with 49 seconds left CSI had an 80-77 lead. BC had their chances from there but on their next offensive possession, BC missed three consecutive open-look three-pointers before CSI could finally pull in a rebound with 24 seconds left. After an immediate foul, Fonseca split a pair of free-throws putting CSI up by four again. BC responded with an open lay-up with 12 seconds to go, and then fouled Schettino with 10 seconds left. Schettino also made just one-of-two, but down to a final shot, BC’s Steven Diaz missed everything on a three-point attempts and CSI pounced on the ball as time expired to seal the win.
CSI shot 44% for the game, and out-rebounded BC, 47-40, in the win. Fonseca led the way with 19 points and 12 rebounds while Schettino finalized with 13 points and 8 assists. Tate finished with a double-double, notching 12 points and 10 rebounds. BC was paced Gjonbalaj’s game-high 21 points, while Djombalic net 19 points and 11 rebounds.
For CSI, this will mark the first time in history they have made the ECAC Final in consecutive years. They won their second ECAC title in program history last year over Kean University. Tomorrow night’s tipoff is at 7:30pm, following the ECAC Women’s Final between Brooklyn College and Rutgers-Newark at 5:30pm.