DOLPHINS CAPTURE BACK-TO-BACK ECAC CROWN IN THRILLER

On a night when head coach Tony Petosa became the winningest CUNYAC coach in history, and junior Will Fonseca broke the school’s single season scoring record, the College of Staten Island successfully defended its ECAC Metro NY/NJ Tournament Championship via an 84-80 double-overtime thriller over No. 3 seeded New York University at the West Quad Center at Brooklyn College.  The win extended the Dolphins’ season to 20-9, notching the program’s third ECAC crown, while the loss finalized NYU’s season at 19-10.

“It was a fun game,” said Petosa, whose team had chances at the buzzer in both regulation and in the first overtime to win the game before sealing it in the second extra session.  “I’m proud of our guys.  It’s a good group we have here and I’ve had a lot of fun with them this year.  We didn’t play to our potential in our conference tournament, but the kids wanted to perform a lot better in the ECAC postseason, and it was nice to end this way.”

The end result was a sweet finale for the Dolphins in what was a classic championship game.  NYU extended to a 7-2 lead early, and the home team on the neutral floor extended to a 23-17 lead, its biggest of the first half, on a Hakeem Harris three-pointer, part of 15 first-half points for NYU’s leading scorer.  The Violets, however, went cold from there, and CSI used a numbing, 20-6, run over the final 7:07 of the half to go into the locker room up by eight points, 37-29.  Frank Schettino got things started with his only points of the frame on a jumper, and free-throws by Fonseca, who was playing with a heavy heart after losing his brother this weekend, put CSI up for the first time at 3:58, 27-26.  Fonseca would add six more before the break, including a three at the buzzer to give him 16 points at halftime.

In the second half, CSI picked up right where it left off, jumping out to a double-digit lead on another Schettino bucket, and then going up by its biggest margin, 47-35, at 16:48 on another Fonseca drive.  NYU asked for time moments later, and it would serve them well as they then proceeded to mount an impressive comeback.  The team ripped off a 13-4 run by pounding the ball inside and earning a bevy of second-chance points, sparked by three Evan Kupferberg lay-ups.  After CSI assumed a five-point lead, NYU finally drew even at 9:05 left at 53-53.

Drawing to the close, CSI did have their chances to end things early.  In a crucial moment, CSI had possession with just over three minutes remaining and a 65-60 lead, but a big steal by Max Ralby and a lay-up cut the lead to 65-62, and after a three-point miss for CSI, NYU’s Harris drained a three to tie the game at 65-65 with 2:29 to play.  The Dolphins misfired again, and NYU appeared to seize momentum with a Costis Gontikas lay-up to take the lead 67-65 with just 1:55 left.  Down to their final chances CSI missed a shot and the front end of a one-and-one, giving the ball back to NYU with 1:27 left.  NYU, however, would turn the ball over 20 seconds later and a Will Fonseca lay-up knotting the score at 1:03, 67-67.  CSI would force an NYU miss and held for the final shot of regulation.  Not leaving anything to chance, CSI did not attempt a shot until the final second, but a running jumper in the lane by Fonseca hit the back iron, insuring overtime.

A pair of free-throws and then a basket by Fonseca kept CSI up in the first extra frame, but again NYU drew even, and a three pointer by Ross Udine put NYU up, 74-73, with just 1:12 to go.  With inside of a minute left, Fonseca appeared poised for a tying shot, but drawing in the defense, he found a wide-open Dacunto for an easy lay-up that tied the game at 74-74 with 55 ticks to go.  After a timeout, NYU took their possession but turned the ball over, and again, CSI had a chance to win.  This time, Schettino let fly a long two-pointer that missed, but he would score his own rebound and put another desperation heave that sailed wide, sending the game into a second overtime.

NYU missed their first six shots of the final overtime, and in the process, Fonseca net four free-throws to put CSI up, 78-74 with 2:17 left.  A Schettino jumper gave CSI a big, 80-74, edge at 1:38 and from there, NYU needed a big run.  They nearly answered the call.  First, after another NYU miss, Harris garnered a steal and was immediately fouled.  He hit his two freebies to make it an 80-76 game with 55 seconds left.  NYU fouled Fonseca 10 seconds later, but Fonseca would miss both free-throws, but a huge offensive rebound by Khari Rollock saved the day for the Dolphins, and NYU then fouled CSI’s Michael Tate, and the senior made a single throw to make it 81-76 with 41 ticks to go. 

Driving to the lane, Harris was fouled for NYU with 29 seconds left and made both and after an immediate foul, CSI’s Delahanty dropped in one of two free throws to make it 82-78 with 25 seconds left.  NYU would miss a three-pointer, but promptly fouled and CSI’s Schettino would miss two free-throws of his own and NYU still had life.  With just a hair over six seconds to go Gontikas converted a lay-up to make it 82-80, and the Violets then asked for time.

Following the pause, NYU fouled again, and again got the gift of missed CSI foul throws, this time two more by Dacunto.  In a bizarre twist, the rebound off of Dacunto’s miss seemed to squarely go off of the hands of an NYU defender and out of bounds, but the referees awarded possession to the Violets, prompting an eruption from the CSI bench.  Still, NYU had a chance to win or tie at the buzzer, but an off-balance three-point attempt by Max Ralby sailed over the side of the rim, and Schettino grabbed the board for CSI.  He was fouled with a half a second remaining, and this time nailed both free-throws to avoid the drama of the final half second needing to be played out.

After shooting 45% in the opening stanza, CSI cooled to finish 39% from the floor, but NYU, owners of a 48% field goal percentage this season, finished just 25-75 from the floor, good for 33.3%.  NYU owned a 59-48 advantage on the boards, including a 21-16 edge in offensive rebounds, but the Violets committed a heavy 20 turnovers to the Dolphins’ 13.

Leading the way for CSI was Fonseca, who poured in a career high 41 points on 12-24 shooting in 48 minutes, adding 13 rebounds.  Schettino would finish with 18 points, eight rebounds and six assists, while Delahanty net 13 points and 11 rebounds .  Harris led the way for NYU with 26 points on 7-23 shooting, while Kupferberg garnered 20 points and 17 rebounds in 35 minutes before fouling out.  Gontikas added 15 points and 10 rebounds.

An emotional Fonseca was named Most Valuable Player for his efforts.  His 41 points are the second-highest in CSI single game history, and the effort gave him 732 for the season, a new CSI single season record, beating Hall of Famer Rob Roesch’s 727, set in 1987-88.
 
“I almost didn’t play this weekend, but I knew he would have wanted me to,” said Fonseca of his brother, who lost his battle to cancer on Friday.  “I’ll remember this game for the rest of my life.”
 
For CSI, this was their third ECAC Metro NY/NJ Championship.  They won the tourney back in 1986, before beating Kean University in last year’s final at the College of Staten Island.  In a rather ironic twist, the Dolphins evened the all-time series with NYU at 4-4, with three of their four wins now coming in double-overtime.  The matchup between CSI and NYU was the first since the 1995-96 season.
CSI finishes the season at 20-6, making it their fourth-straight 20-win season, the most since the Dolphins reeled off six 20-win seasons in a row from 1980-86.  Head Coach Tony Petosa came into the game tied with former Baruch College skipper Ray Rankis with 419 career wins, and his 420 are now the most by any CUNYAC coach, men’s or women’s.  
 

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