On February 26th at 8 pm the Brooklyn College Men’s Bulldog team tipped off and went on to win the CUNY basketball championship 76-67 as 1200 attended with dozens of BC fans, Chancellor Milliken, BC President Gould and ESPN and CUNY television stations at the Nat Holman Gymnasium at City College. The BC women played at 6 pm and lost in overtime. This is 2 consecutive years BC men and women were in the finals.
For the men three point shot missing led to them losing a first half lead. Defense and three pointers got the lead to 20 points in the second half which got cut as low as 9 points. BC will be in the Division III NCAA Tournament for the national championship Friday, March 4, 5:30 pm and the women in the ECAC Tournament March 5at 5 pm.
BC ended up with a 21-7 record and was the #3-seed and played #5-seed Baruch Bearcats, 16-13 record. BC last won the championship in 2010. Lorenzo Williams led BC with 25 points scoring well in both halves and was the tournament MVP. He reached 1000 points in his 2 years at BC.
Lorenzo Williams started things off with 2 three-pointers. Egzon Gjonbalaj had a thunderous block against the backboard and an alley-oop. Chris McIllhatton echoed with 2 three-pointers. Baruch went on a 7-0 run. A few plays later Jamel Gist made back to back three-pointers for six point lead. The shooting then cooled off for both teams.
The score was tied at 27 at halftime. The lead was lost by trying high risk passes and shooting when they did not have the numbers. Both teams had few free throws as they were shooting outside verse driving and both teams did not shoot well. At the half BC’s head coach Rich Micallef’s historic 1982 Final Four team was honored.
In the second half BC went on a 14-0 run to go ahead 48-33 with 8:51 to play. After the half Lorenzo Williams scored their first five points again. On one shot he had a great fake and a spin. Soon after he hit another three-pointer and more threes came from Chris McIllhatton and Dennis Balsam and that was the exclamation point. These were a part of a 14-0. The lead was as high as 20 and were ahead 57-37 with 5:07 to play which ended a 23-4 run.
The defending champion Bearcats beat BC last year in the finals in double overtime due to missed free throws and tried to make it a free throw contest again which cut the lead a bit. There not geared to fast beak enough to comeback. They platooned players in and out for offense and defense. Baruch put on a full court press but was foiled by Egzon Gjonbalaj with a two handed dunk.
With 2:33 left Baruch hit a few three pointers. Baruch got to within nine at 69-60 with 1:25 to go as they just hit several threes and platooning in offense and defensive role payers at stops. “I’m just so proud of these guys, they’ve worked so hard and that was their goal all year long and we got here and they did it so I’m proud of them,” stated Coach Micallef. “Before the game I told them ‘you don’t need me now, you fly’ and they did.” His players poured Gatorade on him after the win and cut down the net which is a tradition.
Baruch has a good defense in that it shut down Medgar Evers Mathew Lee to 10 points in the past and he averages 30 a game. BC really only had a 6 man rotation. Nichoilas Grasso was reinjured and valiantly played a few minutes.
“You gotta be confident and let it fly,” said McIllhatton, also “It’s what every player dreams of. I’m just so proud with how the team performed. We’re just really happy to win the championship.” There are seven seniors on the team that will be leaving.
The Bearcats leaders were Doyin Isaac with 18 points and eight rebounds and Chimaechi Ekekeugbor added 17 points and eight boards. Point guard Edward Roscigno and had 10 points, seven rebounds and six assists, while Raymond De La Cruz added 10 points.
Egzon Gjonbalaj and Jamel Gist made the All-Tournament Team as did Baruch’s Doyin Isaac and Edward Roscigno who in the finals had good penetration through traffic in a set half court.
Lorenzo Williams shot 53.3% (8-15) from the field, 50% (4-8) from the three point line. Jamel Gist had 17 points and off the bench Chris McIllhatton had 14 points and Egzon Gjonbalaj had 17 rebounds. BC shot 48% field goals and 42 % from the arc, 14 points off turnovers as they created 6 more turnovers and got 4 more steals, also 14 points off the bench and got to the line 21 more times..
A college gets its spirit supporting the football team. BC does not have one so this was the sport. Some years there was a fan bus to take students from BC to the championship game but not this year even with the men and women in it. About 80 fans went to the finals and many new each other from the season and there was true joy on their faces at the end.