The College of Staten Island men’s basketball team finished the CUNYAC regular season with an unblemished 16-0 record, warding off a Lehman College comeback to win 78-76 on Senior Day at the Sports & Recreation Center. The Dolphins also extended to 19-6 and secured the No. 1 seed in the CUNYAC Postseason Tournament. The Lightning fell to 15-9 overall and 10-5 within the CUNYAC.
Prior to the game the Dolphins honored their trio of seniors in Khaleeq Baum, Vincent Dacunto and Frank Schettino. That fueled the Dolphins to an early surge as Kevon Murphy dumped in two quick buckets and later Schettino poured in five points to give CSI a 15-8 lead six minutes into the game. Another Schettino jumper and two free throws for the seniors moved CSI to 19-10, then quick, transition points from Schettino gave CSI their biggest lead of the game at 26-12.
From there, Lehman’s mission was to cut into the lead, but the Dolphins kept interrupting their plans with response baskets. After a three point play by Edwin Pasquale cut the lead to 32-23 with 4:51 left in the first, CSI used a 7-1 run to assume another big lead, before nestling into a 42-30 halftime edge.
That would change, however, in the second frame. A rejuvenated Lehman squad came out running, and raced out to a 12-4 run over the first four minutes of the second half. Luis Hernandez popped in a trio of baskets, part of a huge second half for him. A three from Robert Rossiter got CSI back up by eight, but Lehman attacked again, going on an 11-2 run to take a 49-48 lead. Baum then dunked one home for CSI to get the Dolphins recharged, and that set the stage for a thrilling
14-5 run by the Dolphins that once again gave CSI a 10-point lead, 66-56 with 10 minutes to play.
With six minutes left, after a Schettino jumper, Lehman again surged, cutting the lead to a digit with 2:03 to go thanks to an Andrew Utate jumper, 76-75. CSI then turned the ball over, and with a chance to lead, Lehman gave it back thanks to a Murphy steal with 1:28 to go. CSI missed its next shot and with another chance to take the lead, Mylo Mitchell missed a straightaway three and then Damian Bellamy missed a lay-up put-back with 44 ticks to play. Lehman proceeded to foul, and Schettino would hit two free-throws on the next two possessions to make it a 78-75 game with six seconds left.
Down to a final possession, CSI refused to let Lehman get off a shot, fouling Mitchell with one second remaining. Mitchell made the first, then after a timeout, he intentionally missed the second free-throw in order for Lehman to have a chance to make a game-tying put-back. The ball would indeed find Bellamy down low, but his lay-up kissed off of the rim and out to preserve the nail-biting win for CSI and their perfect CUNUYAC season.
CSI shot a crisp 50.9% for the game while Lehman finished at 43.1%. The Dolphins were led by another huge effort from Schettino, who notched his fourth triple-double of the season, with 32 points, 12 assists, and 10 rebounds. Baum added 15 points and 7 rebounds, while Murphy finalized with 11 points. For the Lightning, Hernandez led all with 27 points adding 9 rebounds. Mitchell was next in line with 16 points and 8 caroms.
The Dolphins have now earned a two-round bye in time for the CUNYAC Tournament, which kicks off late next week. CSI will play starting with the semifinal round at CCNY on Wednesday, February 23, at 6pm. Their opponent can be a number of teams. The CUNYAC Postseason draw will be announced next Wednesday.