Vassar Claims First League Title in Program History

TROY – The Brewers made history; Vassar claimed its first men’s basketball Liberty League Championship title in school history by defeating Skidmore 65-48 on Sunday afternoon.

The Brewers reach the NCAA Division III Tournament for the first time in program history with the win. Junior Jack Rothenberg was named the tournament MVP for his performance.

Junior Kevin McAuliffe got the Brewers rolling on a 7-0 when he hit a three-pointer in the opening minute. Juniors Rothenberg and Zach Johnson added two quick layups before Skidmore’s Ty Lamport broke the streak at 17:40. Vassar held the lead until Riley Greene drained a three to tie 17-17 at 9:08.

After a two-minute scoring drought, junior Avni Mustafaj passed to Ethan Ellis for the open triple to begin a 9-0 run until 4:19. Vassar would never relinquish the lead for the remainder of the half, and layup by McAuliffe and then a trey from Zev Katz put the Brewers up 31-22. Before the half, Rothenberg netted one more basket, and Vassar took an 11-point lead into the break.

The Thoroughbreds opened the second half on a 6-0 run within the first two minutes. Riley Greene then cut the lead to three, scoring on a mid-range jumper. Vassar struggled from the field, going 0-for-7 to start, and did not score until Mustafaj netted an inside layup through contact to make it 35-30 at 15:49. A spin move led to a mid-range jumper from Rothenberg, and then Johnson scored inside to give Vassar a 39-30 lead.

Skidmore’s Harrison Eichelberger drove and scored to keep the score at single digits. The Skidmore defense backed off on Ellis, who took advantage and drilled a three-point shot from the top of the arc to put the Brewers up by 11. Vassar slowly kept building its lead after the slow start, with Rothenberg netting five-straight points. A Mustafaj jumper at 10:28 gave the Brewers a 17-point lead. Greg Skoric got Skidmore on the board again, scoring on a jump hook to make it 51-36.

Vassar scored the next two baskets, but the Thoroughbreds responded with an 8-0 run until 5:22 to cut the lead to 11. At 4:11, Johnson bodied his way through the Skidmore defense to grab his miss and then tipped the shot back in. Vassar controlled the ball in the final minutes, and Mustafaj drove inside and passed back to Ellis for the three-pointer. To give Vassar a 64-48 lead, Ellis drilled it from the top.

Rothenberg had a dominant day, leading the Brewers with 16 points and 16 rebounds, while Johnson netted 15 points and grabbed seven boards. Mustafaj scored 12 points, while Ellis had 11.

Skoric paced the Thoroughbreds with 16 points and nine rebounds. Greene added 12 points.

Vassar automatically qualifies for the NCAA National Tournament.

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