DANVILLE, Ill. – SUNY Orange’s record-setting 2022-23 campaign closed with a 74-65 loss to host and fourth seed Danville Area in the Third Place Game of the National Junior College Athletic Association Division II national championship tournament in Danville, Ill.
The Colts, who entered the tournament seeded sixth, finished the year with a single season record of 31 wins, second in the nation behind only the 34 victories by Davidson-Davie. Additionally, SUNY Orange captured conference and district championships, possessed one of the nation’s most potent scoring offenses, and earned the men’s basketball program’s first-ever appearance in the Division II Final Four.
Playing their fourth game in four days, and taking the court without the services of leading scorer Romeo Aquino who injured his ankle in Friday night’s semifinal loss to Milwaukee Area Tech, the Colts’ offense struggled in the first half. SUNY Orange shot just 37.5 percent from the field and 2 of 10 from three-point range. Danville Area (27-5) closed the first half on a 13-7 run over the final 4:49 to grab a 35-27 lead at intermission. The Jaguars’ Ramelle Arnold and Stephen Atkinson keyed that run, scoring 7 and 5 points, respectively.
The halftime break energized the Colts, who opened the second half on a 7-0 run to close to within 35-34. Three minutes later the deficit was still two points at 41-39 before Danville Area got hot from long range, making five three-point shots during a 17-5 run to build a 14-point lead, 58-44, with 9:07 to go. In search of their 32nd win of the season, the Colts had one more run in them, this one keyed by Kevin Stein (Chester, N.Y.) whose three three-point buckets fueled a 10-2 SUNY Orange burst that closed the gap to six at 60-54 with 5:17 to play.
Arnold hit a three on his team’s next possession to return the Jaguars’ advantage to nine points with 4:54 left. Danville Area would not score from the field for the rest of the game, but converted on 11 of 16 free throws to hold off the Colts. Arnold finished with a game-high 24 points. Dameriz Merriweather added 14 points and Atkinson chipped in 12.
Stein paced the Colts with 22 points, including six three-pointers on the night. Sophomore Keon Gill, who averaged 18.3 points per game during his four games in Illinois and was named to the All-Tournament team, scored 15 points while George Patsalos, who got the start in place of the injured Aquino, posted a double-double with 14 points and a game-high 10 rebounds.