By Curtis Ashley
When it comes to basketball, and sports in general, it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. That’s something that will resonate with the City College Men’s Basketball team for the rest of the season, following the biggest heart-breaker of the season, thus far. After taking a commanding 16-point lead over Connecticut College in the first half of Tuesday night’s game, and leading for a majority of the contest, the Beavers lost, with a final score of 75-77.
City lost whatever momentum they had following two big conference wins against CSI and Medgar Evers, with a loss to a non-conference opponent. Their record falls to 9-6, and they have now split their home games, going 5-5 when playing on their own court.
Khalil Hamer produced his usual numbers, notching 16 points, seven assists, and nine rebounds. Mark Richards had the game high 24 points, with eight rebounds to accompany them. Robert Dionisio and David Solano also scored double-digit figures, with 16 and 10 points.
“He’s got some good athletic skills. He’s a pretty good shooter. We go to him. We went to him tonight,” Head Coach Tom Green had to say about Richards’ performance. “He’s just gotten better as the season’s gone on. Really appreciate his efforts and his intensity.”
Scoring was not the issue for City, except when it really mattered. The guys, for the third time this season, have lost a game in the final seconds. It happened earlier in the season against John Jay, and as recent as Lehman, when Hamer was unable to convert on the last-second go-ahead layup.
Hamer would once again be involved in not only the final play, but he moments that led up to it. After taking a two-point lead over Connecticut with just 17 seconds left in the game, Hamer would get charged with a foul on a three-point shot by Connecticut’s Tyler Rowe. Rowe missed the first shot, but made the next two, tying the game at 75. Following an immediate timeout by Connecticut, Kenneth Taylor was set to in-bound the ball. He got the ball to Hamer, who turned it over. Rowe would make the buzzer-beating, go-ahead shot to take the lead and win the game.
“Regardless of individual players, when it comes down to buzzer-beater games like that, it just comes down to our mistakes in the beginning, which were turnovers, defense, giving them too much shots,” Richards said after the game.
“Khalil busted his tail for 40 minutes for us, and he plays his tail off night in, night out,” Green said. “It’s not about the last play. This game was lost probably from the eight-minute mark, to the end of the first half. And then obviously the way we let them shoot the second half.”
The guys have played 15 games of the 25-game season, and are still on track to have one of their greatest seasons in recent history. Just two more wins and they will surpass their 10-game win total from the 2012-2013 season, their highest in the last seven seasons. They still find themselves fifth in the CUNYAC, with many opportunities to move ahead coming up. In fact, of the remaining 10 games, nine of them are against CUNYAC opponents, including the next game against Baruch on Friday night.
“It’s important to keep on playing ball. We didn’t play that good tonight. Our defense has just got to get better, we got to improve, and we got to hit shots,” Green added.
Baruch is currently 8-6 overall, 4-2 in the CUNYAC, sitting at fourth in the conference. They play Lehman on Wednesday, and the outcome of that game has a lot of implications. If Baruch loses, they will fall to 8-7, while being 4-3 in the conference. CCNY would actually become fourth, with the game on Friday being the tie-breaker. The last time City played Baruch, was in the Quarterfinals of last season’s conference tournament, when City was defeated 55-72 at Baruch’s Arc Arena. In fact, the Beavers have not defeated the Bearcats in over seven seasons. But this year has been different for City. Hopefully the outcome of Friday night’s game is different as well.