by Jac Bergenson
For the first time since the 2004-05 season, the Mount Saint Mary College men’s basketball team will be advancing to the Skyline Conference Championship Finals, after defeating Farmingdale State College in the Semifinals Thursday evening.
The Knights (21-5) squared off against Farmingdale (18-9) on their home court at the Kaplan Center. It didn’t take long for the Mount to show how much they wanted the victory. The Knights broke open a 20-2 lead in the first 5:30 of the game; the lead didn’t last for long though. The Rams would eventually start to catch up, but the Mount still took a sizable lead into the half, with a score of 44-25.
After halftime, the Rams hit foul trouble in their attempts to play catch-up. They came out of the gate shooting, and cut the lead with a 12-2 run. But numerous fouls from Farmingdale players like forward Curtis Williams and guard Timothy Johnson, each with three in the second half, put the Mount in a bonus period with a quarter of the game left to play. In the bonus period, any foul, shooting or non-shooting, sends a player to the free-throw line.
The bonus period slowed the game down and slowed the momentum that the Rams had built. Senior forward Joe Henain, from Hopewell Junction, took advantage of the bonus, hitting a pair of free throws at the 11:59 mark, then converting a three-point play on the next possession, bringing the Knights’ lead back to 15.
Henain also had three blocks on the night, setting the team’s single-season record (69) and stretching his own career record (181).
Though the Rams would exchange baskets with the Knights for the better part of the second half, the Knights never relinquished the lead. With 28 seconds left on the clock, sophomore forward Jason Oder, of Levittown, threw in a three-pointer, extending the Knights’ lead to 95-75, and effectively ending the game.
Five Knight players scored in double-digits during Thursday’s victory. Henain led the team with a career-high 26 points and 9 rebounds. Senior guard Donte Howell, of Baldwin, contributed 18 points of his own, as well as 4 rebounds and 4 assists. Senior guard Anthony Cipriano notched 14 points and 4 assists off the bench. Forwards Chris Pisciotta, a senior from New Hyde Park, and Alex Smith, a freshman from Marlboro, each contributed 10 points.
Farmingdale’s Jonathan Annan led his team with 21 points and 5 assists. Donald Lawes, statistically the top shot blocker in the NCAA, contributed 14 points and 3 blocks, but fouled out in the second half.
The Knights shot 56.1 percent (32-of-57) on the night, including eight three-pointers. They held the Rams to 37.3 percent (25-of-67) shooting from the field. The home team held a 38-31 edge in rebounding. The Knight bench provided a crucial 34 points, compared to just 14 for the Rams’ reserves.