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Ramapo College season ends in first-round NJAC Tournament loss to Rowan, 94-80

Leading up to a first-round of the NJAC Tournament showdown vs. Rowan University (15-11) on Saturday afternoon at the Bradley Center, Ramapo College (15-11) men’s basketball coach Chuck McBreen expressed concerns about the match-up especially with Rowan averaging 84 points per game, shooting 47 percent from the perimeter and 33 percent on three-pointers. Even with the Roadrunners sweeping the regular season series, both games were tight contests including a buzzer-beater shot from Matt Latka in the first game played.

“A big game for us, Rowan is the hottest team in the league right now, won five straight since they lost to us two or three weeks ago,” said McBreen. “They shoot the ball and a lot of three’s. Depending on how you contain and guard that will play a significant part in the outcome. We need to defend and rebound. We have to get out on shooters  and contest, they start by driving it and kicking it out. Contain the dribble, stay home on shooters and limit them to one contested shot.”

“It’s for these seniors, biggest one we had and have not had all hands on deck since the first three or four games the season. How much can these guys give us and handle juggling them? We don’t have much time, two days to prepare and right into it.”

The red flag was up early in the first half with guard Jerry Price scoring the first seven points for the Profs. However, the Roadrunners managed to get the offense back on track tying up the game at 9-9 and eventually going on to take a 19-15 lead with less than 12 minutes left. Rowan caught fire from beyond the arc, draining three consecutive shots in a row to regain the advantage at 29-21 with eight and half minutes remaining.

Ramapo simply had no answer in containing the duo of Malik Sanders (13 points) and Austin Kearney (12 points) tallying 25 points along with five trifecta’s. A 9-2 run from the Profs would ultimately lead to a commanding 47-32 at halftime while burying a total of seven triples in the half.

In the second half, Rowan continued to light it from downtown, canning two early treys that boosted the lead to 21 points at 55-34. Held to eight points in the first half, Ramapo senior guard Rob McWilliams lit up with 20 points including igniting an 8-0 run that trimmed the deficit to 57-46 with 16 minutes on the clock. With the home crowd fired up, the Roadrunners sliced the margin down to nine points with less than 12 minutes left.

Once again the Profs dashed any hopes of a comeback with burying more three-pointers and fast break lay-ups and dunks to seal a 94-80 victory this ending the 2019-20 season for Ramapo. As time winded down in the second half, senior players Rob McWilliams, Connor Romano, Jordan Zagadou and Travis Bennett left to loud ovations.

McWilliams finished with a double-double at 28 points and 12 rebounds. Connor Romano chipped in 16 points while Jordan Zagadou and Marquise Kindel delivered 10 points apiece with Zagadou grabbing 11 rebounds. For Rowan, Austin Kearney poured in a game high 24 points while Maliq Sanders added 22 points along with three other players reaching double figures.

Head Coach Chuck McBreen on the loss, “I was worried about this game, at the end of the day they were the hottest team in the league. After we beat them they won five in a row and know how they score the basketball. Although we beat them here and held them to 76 here and 66 down there, today they shot it well at 57 percent. We took 22 more shots at 85-63 and still had one less field goal than they did at 32-31.”

“We didn’t play defense, Kearney was 9 for 9 for the game, the 9-0 run and we never recovered. We didn’t have one guy that played a good game today. Rob McWilliams had 28 and 12 and played his heart out. Not his best game, he took 24 shots to get 28 points and not one guy who had 50 percent shooting. We didn’t shoot the free throws well, took 19 three’s and didn’t play across the board well as a team. We had at none with 11:25 left and couldn’t get a stop. They made some ridiculous three’s but we were making mistakes. Not being able a stop at critical times and chip into more. If we got it to five or six it would make them really think. Not our best performance since we had won eight in a row at home and worked so hard to get this home game. I told my assistants that I saw this coming.”

McBreen on the seven seniors playing their final game in a Ramapo uniform, “They are an amazing group, especially guys like Connor and Rob. High character guys that really get in school, classroom and on the court they do everything the right way. It’s going to be sad to see them go. Everything they have done for the program and me and I really appreciate it. They laid it all out there for me and told them in the locker room I really appreciate how much they have done for me and this program.”

“I have been fortunate and blessed with a lot of great players and as a result had success. If you can recruit high character guys, you can do really special things. Three straight NCAA Tournament appearances came to an end. We were 3-6 and 0-4 in the league and looked we were not going to win another game and then go on an 11-1 streak and get back into this race and it’s a credit to their perseverance. They could have thrown in the towel and packed it in. We were able to get ourselves from 10th to 3rd and quite an accomplishment and credit to their character, hard-work and perseverance.”

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Sunil Sunder Raj

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