LOCH SHELDRAKE – Defense dominated the evening as No. 2 Niagara and Sullivan squared off for the District Championship on Saturday. After an entire game of back-and-forth scoring and lead …
LOCH SHELDRAKE – Defense dominated the evening as No. 2 Niagara and Sullivan squared off for the District Championship on Saturday. After an entire game of back-and-forth scoring and lead changes on both sides, Niagara grabbed a late lead and never looked back, winning 63-54.
The District Championship was a play-in for the NJCAA National Tournament, and the Generals had to watch SUNY Orange, who was handed their first loss of the season last weekend at the hands of SUNY Sullivan, punch their ticket on their home court with a win over Raritan Valley. The Generals hoped to do the same against the No. 2 team in the nation, the Niagara Thunderwolves.
Both defenses stifled any offense in the early going. The two teams clamped down and after 11 minutes, only 27 combined points had been scored. Niagara clung to a 14-13 lead, but the Generals closed on a 14-10 run to take a three point lead at the half.
The first half scoring was low, but it was back-and-forth, as the two teams exchanged the lead 13 times in the first half.
The second half followed a very similar script, with dominant defense, non-existent offense, and close scoring.
After 13 more lead changes over the first 19 minutes of the second half, the Generals found themselves trailing by three with a minute remaining.
Their only hope was to foul the Thunderwolves and capitalize on their misses, and race down the court to net a bucket of their own. Unfortuntely, Niagara made enough of their free throws and Sullivan couldn’t hit a shot in the final minute.
The scoring drought inflated the score to a nine point final, but the score does not always tell the story. The Generals were a shot away from tying the game or taking a lead until the final 30 seconds.
In their game against SUNY Orange last weekend, the Generals were able to gut out a win with back-to-back clutch three pointers, but on Saturday they struggled to shoot from beyond the arc.
Unlike many of their games this year, SUNY Sullivan struggled on Saturday with offensive rebounds. Usually a huge part of their offense is the spacing that opens up after rebounding a missed shot, but the Thunderwolves kept them off the boards.
The Generals, who were ranked No. 1 earlier in the season, concluded their 22-23 campaign without a National Tournament berth. However with the talent that this team possesses, they will surely make their return to the NJCAA Tournament in the coming years.
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