By Monica D’Ippolito
BROOKYLN – The State University of New York at New Paltz men’s basketball team controlled most of the game against hosting Medgar Evers College Saturday in the first outing of the Dr. Carol V DeCosta Go 4 the Goal Classic. The hosting Cougars, however, made a run down the stretch to force overtime, but the Hawks regrouped and finished the game in extra time, making enough plays in the final minutes to come away with a 98-91 overtime win.
The victory is the first on the road for SUNY New Paltz this season, but like all of its four wins this year, it came in dramatic fashion with the opposition making a late run to extend the game.
“Consistency is what we need to put teams away, but we’re happy getting our first win [on the road] and winning in OT,” said SUNY New Paltz coach Keith Kenney.
Both offenses had a slow start to the game, but it was the Hawks who got out in front and started building a double-digit cushion.
Isaiah Bien-Aise pushed the Hawks’ lead, 28-18, after finishing inside the paint, but the Cougars went into their full court press and began chipping away at the deficit, going on a 7-0 run to cut the score to three. A Bien-Aise bucket put an end to the run, but a jumper by Medgar Evers got the Cougars within a basket.
SUNY New Paltz never let the lead slip down the first-half stretch however, and took a 42-35 advantage at the break.
The Hawks controlled the second half of play from the opening whistle, going up by as many as 17 with 15 minutes left in the game, as Tristan Wissemann connected on his basket in the paint to give the Hawks a 61-44 advantage.
However, the Cougars dominated on the offensive glass and the difference on the boards helped them get back into the game as they chipped away at the large deficit. They scored 16 second-chance points and out-scored SUNY New Paltz 35-19 in the final 10 minutes, ultimately cutting the score to two with 34 seconds remaining in regulation after a made bucket by Justin Sutton, who finished with a game-high 30 points.
“We usually rebound well, but Medgar Evers attacked the offensive glass,” Kenney said. “They played hard and are a good team.”
Following a Cougars timeout with 31 seconds to go, Cory Garcia was put on the foul line for SUNY New Paltz and made both to push the cushion, 80-77, for his team.
After ripping down an offensive board, Jafet Thomas earned a trip to the foul line for Medgar Evers and banked in his first attempt, while netting his second to make the score a two-point game once again with 20 seconds left.
After the two teams traded a pair of free throws to push the score, 83-81 Hawks, the Cougars forced SUNY New Paltz into a turnover near the baseline to gain back possession with seven seconds left, allowing them to either tie or take the lead with the ball underneath their own basket.
The Cougars in-bounded and worked the ball to Sutton, who missed on his initial floater, but snatched his own rebound off the miss and got his second look to go with .3 seconds remaining to tie the game at 83 and force overtime.
SUNY New Paltz and Medgar Evers continued trading baskets in the overtime with the score knotted at 88 early on. Scott Reisert showed his strength inside to get his basket to go and take contact to give SUNY New Paltz a two-point lead and start a 6-0 run.
Joancarlo Bonilla was fouled behind the arc for Medgar Evers and after connecting on all three attempts, he cut the score back to three with 11 seconds left. Out of a timeout, Garcia was put on the foul line once again and made 1-of-2. Coupled with a defensive stop and another pair of made foul shots by Paddy Parr, the Hawks iced the game to take the road victory.
“We got the lead from being aggressive in the press break and attacking,” Kenney said. “Our defense wasn’t terrible, but the offensive rebounds really hurt us.”
Wissemann (19 points), Jake Passaretti (18) and Reisert (17) led the team offensively, but SUNY New Paltz had 12 players with at least two points. As a team, the Hawks shot 46.8 percent from the field and 35.3 percent from the arc.