ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON – It proved to be the closest game of the season, but the Vassar men’s basketball team came out with the 53-52 win over Bard on Saturday afternoon. The Brewers move to 12-4 overall with an 8-2 mark in the Liberty League. The Raptors fall to 5-7 and 1-5 in the conference.
The first half was closely fought, with neither team pulling away from the other. Three-pointers from juniors Ethan Ellis (Silver Spring, MD) and Kevin McAuliffe gave the Brewers a 6-0 lead to start the game, but a pull-up jumper from Bard’s Azriel Almodovar cut the lead to four at 18:35. A three and a half minute scoring drought followed until Henry Meyers drained a triple to make it 6-5. First-year Alan Cedeno hit a trey from a Zach Johnson pass to keep the Brewers ahead.
Vassar slowly began to pull away when Johnson converted two consecutive inside layups to make it 15-7 at 13:10, but another three minutes of no scoring ensued right after. The Raptors took advantage of that and used a 12-0 run capped off with a three-pointer by Greg Farrow at 7:40 to take their first lead at 19-15.
After Bard took a five-point lead, Vassar answered with a 5-0 span to tie 21-21 with under two minutes remaining. Kevin Le put the Raptors up after a driving layup, but Johnson scored when he was fouled to net the three-point play. Johnson then scored the final bucket of the half to put the Brewers ahead 26-23.
At the start of the second, Avni Mustafaj scored off an inside pass by Jack Rothenberg to take an early five-point lead. Some long-range shooting by the Raptors allowed Bard to stay within striking distance, and Elliot Harris drained a three to make it 33-32 at 16:25. An Ellis three-pointer at 14:27 began a 10-0 Vassar run for the largest lead of the day at 43-32.
A scrappy Bard team held in, though, cutting the Vassar lead to seven at 4:12 when Henry Meyers converted a pair of free throws. A Greg Farrow three-pointer made it 50-44 at 3:53, but the Brewers broke through the Raptors’ full-court press the next possession. Cedeno found junior Zev Katz for the open triple to keep the Brewers up nine.
In the final minutes, the action heated up when Bard’s Tyler Bruns sank two consecutive triples to make it 53-50 with 1:56 left to play. In the final minute, Bruns split through a Vassar double team to cut the lead to one, and the Brewers could not respond on their next possession. It was up to the Vassar defense to hold off Bard in the final seconds, and the lockdown defense did just that as the Brewers held on for the 53-52 win.
Johnson led Vassar with a double-double on 19 points and 12 rebounds, while Mustafaj scored 14 points with four rebounds, two assists, and two steals.
Farrow paced Bard with 13 points, while Bruns scored 10. Harris led the Raptors with nine rebounds, while Almodovar recorded five steals.
The Brewers wrap up their road trip this weekend by traveling north to face St. Lawrence on Jan. 28 at 7:30 p.m.