Flashback Friday looks at the top moments from the 2016-17 athletic year at the College of Staten Island. There is only room for one more at the top of our list, and the coveted spot belongs to the icing on the cake to the undefeated run by the men’s basketball team.  Their 77-66 win over CCNY is the top moment on our countdown.

#1 – Men’s Basketball tops CCNY to cap undefeated season
Date:  February 24, 2017
Who:  Men’s Basketball
Where: Nat Holman Gymnasium, New York, NY
What Happened:  The College of Staten Island men’s basketball team, during a year when many thought they would rebuild and struggle, ripped through the CUNYAC regular season to the tune of a 16-0 record.  But after getting past Baruch College, 71-54, many knew they would have their hands full when they drew a strong CCNY team for the Final, in their gym to boot, for the rights to the CUNYAC title.  Anxiety reached a fever pitch when after 20 minutes, it was the home Beavers who took a 35-33 lead into the locker room.  But a patient Dolphins team kept plugging away, and with CCNY going cold from the floor the Dolphins took full advantage.  Two Frank Schettino free-throws gave CSI a 46-44 lead, and then Kevon Murphy added three-straight lay-ups to balloon the lead.  After another Beavers miss, Edin Bracic added a three, getting CSI up 55-44.  From there, the Dolphins held the Beavers at bay, and put the finishing touches on a perfect season in grand fashion in front of a racous crowd.  Senior Khaleeq Baum was named Most Valuable Player with a team-high 21 points and 11 rebounds in 27 minutes.  CSI would go on to play Swarthmore College in the NCAA Division III National Championship Tournament, ultimately finishing with a 21-7 final record.  During the summer, long-time Head Coach Tony Petosa said goodbye to the program, after 459 career victories and six CUNYAC titles.

4021Q&A…with Tony Petosa

Let’s get to the tough question first.  Going into the season, did you think it would be your last?  No.  I really try not to think about that stuff when the season starts or is going on.  But as the season progressed and when it was over I felt better about it.  I had a feeling I was coming down to the end, but during the season you try to concentrate on the next practice or the next game.   

Going into the year, a lot of folks pegged this team as a rebuilding one, having lost back-to-back Player of the Year Will Fonseca and a few other key pieces, but the team never really bought into that mentality, did they?  No, definitely not.  I was very fortunate in that regard.  From the very beginning we had guys who really played for one another.  When you have a group of kids all pulling in the same direction, it’s amazing what you can ultimately accomplish.  It wasn’t so much that we didn’t have the talent, but we definitely out-worked teams that were probably more talented simply because we had guys who wanted it bad enough. 

You couldn’t have asked for a tougher start, playing teams like Salisbury, Cabrini, Stevens, NJCU, Wagner, and Middlebury all in the first third of the season.  How did that stretch make you better as a team?  I actually felt that we competed in every one of those games from start to finish save for maybe Wagner, which is a Division I team.  I think those games really allowed our freshmen to see what it was like to be involved in some high level games.  We lost a few of them but there’s no question they made us stronger as a team. 

The story of the season was undoubtedly the play of Frank Schettino.  We’re talking one of the best single seasons in CSI history, and you were quick to cite his leadership as being perhaps the biggest impact he had.  How would you categorize the year he had?  I’d like to think it was like a coming-out party for Frank.  His ability has never been questioned by anyone who has watched him play, but last year he demonstrated such a strong desire to win by putting his team first and I felt that last year he did everything in his power to make those around him better.  That’s not always easy when you have the kind of talent he has.  He matured and without question it certainly wasn’t all him, but his leadership and Khaleeq’s (Baum) leadership and Edin’s (Bracic) leadership kept kids on task and knowing what they had to do.  That comes from maturity and hunger.  Our seniors last year were very hungry and it showed.  

As the year is rolling on, it’s clear you guys are going to be in the mix, but even exceptional teams have a hard time going undefeated.  Did that surprise you being able to go 16-0?   Yes, it really did.  The difference between us and the first six teams in the conference was very slim and it was evident in the margins of victory we had.  Every game was very close and on paper, I think the top three or four teams below us probably had just as much if not more talent than we did.  But we had a senior class with Frank, Khaleeq and Vinny (Dacunto) that did a great job keeping us focused and a starting five we knew could compete with anyone and we had the luxury of going to the bench more than we could in the past and it helped us a great deal.   

After beating Baruch in the semifinals, you guys then draw CCNY, who of course happen to be on their home floor with a big home crowd behind them.  What was the gameplan coming in to neutralize that built-in advantage?   You can’t worry too much about those type of things to be honest.  I just think the most important thing for us was to control the ball.  That’s where I thought Frank did a great job.  Having the job of guarding Khalil (Hamer), it wasn’t so much about stopping him as it was about controlling him.  We did a really good job of controlling the game.  When you’re playing on the road, especially in a big game, that becomes incredibly important.

You guys weren’t playing badly at all in the first half, but you look up at the scoreboard at you’re down by two at halftime.  What’s the mindset there going into the locker room?  Just to continue to do what we were doing.  We got down early but we weren’t too concerned about it.  You worry a little when you fall behind because you know that on the road in a big game, one big run could really kill you.  But we felt good about how we were playing.  We weren’t in foul trouble, we were playing well defensively.  We just had to make some shots and we did.  

It seemed pretty clear that the call in the second half was simply to wear CCNY down inside and your big guys really did damage there that resulted in you guys pulling ahead.  Was that the way you guys drew it up?  One of the things we always try to do is work inside-out.  Whether it’s using our big men inside of utilizing dribble-penetration, that is always how we looked to win or at least play offensively.  Two things in this game that had an impact were Khaleeq’s final four minutes were just exceptional and Kevon (Murphy) was as good as he was the entire year.  He is athletic and plays good defense when he is locked in and he was locked in.  When he is focused, he can be very dangerous.  

Coach, you have had so much success at CSI, but you’ll be the first to admit these championships are sure hard to come by, so they are special when they come.  How special was this one?  Oh, it sure was special.  It allowed me to resign on a high note (laughing).  You know, it really made my decision a lot easier but you’re right, it is hard to win a championship.  You think about it and know that sometimes it takes five or six years to get a team prepared to make these types of runs.  I’ve been very fortunate but it’s hard to win and that’s why they are special when they happen. 

Most times at this stage I’d ask you about your plans for next year with the team but we all know about your tough decision this summer.  Now that it’s been some time, have you been able to look back and appreciate the season like you should ?  It really hasn’t.  I think I will coach again someday.   Maybe in high school or college and when the time ultimately comes when I won’t coach anymore, maybe then I can properly reflect.  I am very aware that it’s hard to be a coach and so it will need to be a right-place, right-time, situation, but I do think that when I do finish altogether with coaching, I’ll allow myself to really appreciate all that we accomplished here.  I was just glad to be along for the ride.  

Other Highlights

CSI Story
Post Game Interview
CUNYAC Highlight Video
CUNYAC Photo Album

Frank Schettino had a remarkable 2016-17 campaign.

CSI was down at half before the comeback

With 21 points and 11 rebounds, Baum was named MVP.