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Sunil Sunder Raj

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Ramapo College falls to Alfred University 92-76 in first round of NCAA Division III Tournament

Making their third consecutive appearance in the NCAA Division III  Men’s Basketball Tournament, the Ramapo College Roadrunners looked to build off the success of last season in the tournament where the team reached the Final Four after 28 years.

Facing off against Alfred University (24-4) at the Freeman Center on the campus of Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Virginia, Ramapo found itself trailing by double digits not even six minutes into the contest. The Roadrunners were unable to contain Saxons guard/forward Dom LeMorta pouring in 16 points as the lead ballooned to 23-8.

However, Ramapo answered back with Rob McWilliams who scored 10 points in the half knocking down back-to-back trifecta’s cutting the gap down to 27-20 with 11 minutes remaining. The Roadrunners continued to charge ahead tying up the contest at 29-29 with about eight minutes to go and eventually taking the lead a minute later. Jordan Zagadou gave the squad great energy off the bench not only scoring 10 points but playing tenacious defense as Ramapo went to a full-court press defense leading to numerous turnovers. Leading 37-33 with four and half minutes to go, Zagadou picked up his second foul thus forcing him to the bench for the remainder of the half.

Alfred responded with a 13-5 the rest of the first half taking a 46-42 advantage into the locker room. Even with the Saxons shooting 51 percent from the field and LeMorta delivering 25 points, Ramapo was sizzling from the perimeter shooting 56 percent, winning rebounds 18-15, points off turnovers 15-10 and points in the paint 28-18.

Head Coach Chuck McBreen on the first half, “You have to give our guys credit, resiliency all year and we never quit. We’re down by 16 at one point in the first half and went up four ta one point but I though a pivotal point was the last four minutes of the first half and Zagadou had picked up a second foul and got him off the floor. He was very active in our pressure that got us back in the game and gave some major minutes and changed the complexion of the game.”

“They went on a 13-5 run to go from four down to four up and that was huge in giving them positive energy and momentum into the half. If we got the lead going into the locker room after being down 15 I think we have the positive energy, had poor body language and droopy shoulders.”

Right off the bat in the second half, Ramapo trimmed the deficit to two points on a lay-up from Rob Lewis. Once again the Saxons padded its lead with another big run, this time 14-1 over the next four minutes of action. Held to four points in the first half, Kashaun Barnes heated up scoring 14 points as the Roadrunners went on a 12-3 run to cut the margin to 63-57 with less than 13 minutes to go.

LeMorta picked up where he left off in the first half, burying five trifecta’s and 7 of 12 from the perimeter ending up with 45 points as the lead expanded back to double figures at 74-60 with 10 minutes remaining and a deficit Ramapo (18-10) could never recover from. Barnes finished with a game-high 19 points while McWillams netted 17 points and Lewis and Zagadou each had 10 points apiece. The Roadrunners struggled from the free throw line connecting just on 13 of 21 and shot 34 percent from the field in the second half.

“Even though we scored the first basket of the second half, to cut it to two, we were always pushing the bus up the hill the whole second half,” McBreen said. “We made some runs when they separated a couple of times and we got back in it. They got it back into double figures and we were not able to mount a final charge. Give them credit they made an adjustment at half to our pressure and we didn’t counter and adjust to offset what they we’re doing.”

“They were able to keep the pace of scoring with 46 in each half and LeMorta had half of them. I thought we could eliminate the mistakes that got us beat, missing free throws, not blocking out and turning the ball over but not able to eliminate them. Our lack of depth all year long and not having enough bodies.”

Looking ahead to next season, Ramapo faces the reality of losing Kashaun Barnes and Rob Lewis to graduation. On the bright spot the Roadrunners will have five seniors on the 2019-20 team and numerous underclassmen.

“I told the kids in the locker room that 64 teams make this tournament and when you get into the postseason only one team ends the season with a win and other 63 are going to experience,” said McBreen. “You are going to have to deal with feeling of not winning the whole thing. Yesterday 32 teams experience it with us.”

“If you would have told me or anybody else we lose our top five to graduation, Pat Peterson quits the week before school started and Matt Latka for the half of the season and still make the NCAA’s I would have signed for it but thought you would be crazy. Looking back on a tremendous accomplishment, a credit to the players and coaching staff and everybody involved in it.”

“We lose two guys who scored 34 of our 75 points, seven guys that played coming back and a couple off the bench that got involved throughout the year. We definitely have to add some depth and pieces if we want to compete in the NJAC and NCAA Tournament. A huge task for me and the staff to get recruits that can step right into the mix now and play a factor and keeping us on an elite level.”

Sunil Sunder Raj

Sunil is the Rockland Boulders Beat Writer for DoubleGSports.com and also covers North Jersey High School Sports
Sunil Sunder Raj

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