Bronx, NY | The College of Staten Island men’s basketball team was just a beat away from finishing the CUNYAC Regular Season perfect on the road and taking down the regular season champs, but in the end fell a point short, 83-82, at Lehman College this afternoon. The Lightning won their 12th-straight, and improved to 20-4 overall and 14-1 in the CUNYAC, sweeping the season series against the Dolphins, who fell to 14-11, 12-4.
With the regular season over for the Dolphins, they currently sit in second-place in the CUNYAC, which carries with it a bye into the Semifinal Round of the CUNYAC Postseason Tournament. The Dolphins, however, can fall to third place should Baruch win it’s final two games. They play later this afternoon and when the CUNYAC Regular Season ends on Tuesday.
For the Dolphins, this afternoon’s defeat certainly came with some frustration, as the visitors led exclusively the entire first half and for most of the second frame as well, taking an 82-81 lead with 13 seconds to play on an Edin Bracic three before Lehman answered back with a Luis Hernandez lay-up with 1.5 to go to ice it. A frantic CSI turned the ball over in a hurried inbounds pass to end the game, as Lehman escaped with the win, going undefeated at home against the CUNYAC, while handing CSI their only CUNYAC road loss of the year.
Before all of that, CSI was able to temper their way through a first half and built up as much as an eight-point edge over the home squad. An early basket by Christian Taylor helped CSI to a 5-0 start and later an Adeola Latunji jumper matched the lead at 9-4. A three by Robert Rossiter extended the lead to 12-6, before another Latunji lay-up and then a drive by Jade Spencer gave the visitors a 20-12 cushion with 12:16 to go in the opening frame.
As they did in their previous meeting when they fell behind by as many as 16 to the Dolphins, Lehman steadily began chipping away, and a Jean Marcial lay-up dropped the lead to a single possession, 22-20, two minutes later. From there, the teams traded baskets until a Gabe Jeffers drive knotted the score at 28-28 with six minutes to play in the opening stanza.
CSI then bounced back and recorded an immediate 8-0 response, thanks to four points from Latunji and a deuce from Stephen Flagg. But in a game powered by momentum swings, Lehman recorded a 10-4 edge in the final 3:19, led by three baskets by Mylo Mitchell, including two three’s to cut CSI’s lead to 40-38 at the break.
A poised CSI did not let down, however, and stayed with the lead until a 7-0 run by the Lightning gave the home team their first lead of the game, 51-50, with 15:39 to play.
From there, Luis Hernandez seemingly took over for Lehman with 11-straight points as the two teams battled through eight lead changes in the next three minutes.
As the game moved into the final minutes, Lehman looked as if they had wrestled away control when Mitchell banked in a lay-up that gave the Lightning a 78-73 lead with 4:26 left, but CSI refused to give in, and Bracic recorded a pair of free-throws and then Flagg powered in a lay-in to cut it to one. After Lehman went up by four points, a Taylor lay-up cut it to 81-79.
CSI had a chance to tie on the ensuing possession but could not, and then after Hernandez missed a crucial three, CSI had it again with under a minute to play. Rossiter would miss an open three, but CSI got it back when Andrew Utate fumbled a pass underneath the basket with just 45 seconds to play. Holding for a shot Rossiter missed a baseline three but CSI secured the rebound and then Bracic nailed a three with two Lightning players in his face to give CSI the lead.
With the shot clock off, Lehman wisely put the ball in Hernandez’ hands and he did the rest, powering from the left side of the arc into the right side of the paint hitting on an open lay-in to give Lehman the win. With the game clock stopped at 1.5 seconds left, CSI had time for one desperation heave, but a Latunji inbounds pass to Jade Spencer near half court forced Spencer out of bounds, ending the game.
Hernandez led all with 32 points, adding six rebounds, while Mitchell poured in 21 points with 11 rebounds for the Lightning. CSI answered with 25 points and three rebounds from Latunji, and a solid 17-point, 11-rebound effort from Taylor. CSI shot 44.8% from the field but were out-rebounded by the Lightning, 43-39.
For the Dolphins, they are now positioned to finish either second or third in the conference. Should they finish second, they will await the winner of a 3 vs. 4 quarterfinal game for the CUNYAC Semifinal Round on Tuesday, February 20, at 8pm at CCNY. If the Dolphins fall to third via two Baruch College wins, then they will host a quarterfinal game at the Sports & Recreation Center on Saturday, February 17, against a team yet to be determined.