By Javier Gutierrez
Published: March 4, 2015
The Baruch College Bearcats defeated the Brooklyn College Men’s Basketball team, 90-83, in a double-overtime thriller in the City University of New York Athletic Conference (CUNYAC) Championship Game.
First-year Brooklyn College head coach Rich Micallef was disappointed following the loss, but gave credit to the Bearcats. “Hats off to Baruch,” he said. “They played a phenomenal game, and they hit big shots.”
The Bearcats led the game for the first 12 minutes at the Nat Holman Gymnasium at City College until Steven Diaz hit a three-pointer from the top of the key to give the Bulldogs their first advantage, 16-13.
The lead changed hands for the rest of the half until Jai Kellman spun off two defenders for a tough layup and gave Brooklyn the lead at the buzzer, 26-24.
Kellman brought that momentum into the second half, scoring eight out of Brooklyn’s first ten points, and finished the night with 14 overall.
With the help of Lorenzo Williams, who had a team-high 24 points, Brooklyn took its biggest lead, 40-32, with 13 minutes and 51 seconds left in the game.
The Bulldogs looked like they would run away with the championship, but Baruch got right back in the fray with three-pointers. The Bearcats’ Granville Gittens and Bryler Paige hit a pair of threes and brought the game to 40-38, in favor of Baruch, who dominated the half from downtown, making five of their seven baskets from behind the three-point line.
Towards the end of the game, Brooklyn’s Valon Djombalic, who finished the game with 14 points, hit a tear drop to start a 7-0 Brooklyn run. Following another Williams layup and several Baruch fouls after Djombalic’s score, the Bulldogs went up 61-54. The Bulldog fans at the Nat Holman Gymnasium—who made up the majority of the 1,712 in attendance—began to chant, tasting the victory at hand.
Gittens put a quick end to the enthusiasm with a huge three pointer moments later. And after Brooklyn committed several fouls on him, Chimaechi Ekekeugbor drew Baruch within one, making it 61-60.
With only six and 1/2 seconds remaining, Baruch had possession, down 66-64. Egzon Gjonbalaj guarded Bearcat Ryan Markoe, who grabbed an inbound pass. Markoe passed to Gittens, who began to lose his handle on the ball on his drive toward the basket. Gittens grabbed it with both hands, his back to the basket, turned, and knocked down a fade-away jumper from 25 feet away as the buzzer expired. The shot made it 66-66 and sent the CUNYAC Championship Game into its first overtime in its 50-year history.
Both teams started the extra period slowly, as neither side scored in the first minute of play. Williams sparked the scoring with a three-pointer, but Paige answered with a deep ball of his own.
Djombalic then made a free throw after Baruch fouled him, putting Brooklyn up by three, but Markoe matched him with a triple 23 seconds later.
With less than 25 seconds remaining in overtime and the game tied, 74-74, Williams had the ball ten feet away from the sidelines. He cut left one step, right another, drove back left, and passed backwards to Kellman who was behind the three-point line. With less than half a second left, Kellman put up a three.
The shot missed left of the rim, and the game headed into a second overtime.
Nearly three hours after the opening tip-off, both teams were exhausted. “I think we just ran out of gas at that point,” Micallef said.
Baruch gained control with one minute and 42 seconds left in the second overtime after Edward Rosigno intercepted a Gjonbalaj pass in the open court. After Brooklyn fouled him in the backcourt to prevent the fast break, Rosigno hit both free throws and brought Baruch’s lead to 82-80.
With less than ten seconds remaining, the Bearcats rebounded the ball after the Bulldogs missed a perimeter shot. Fouled to stop the clock, Baruch made both free throws and iced the 90-83 victory.
In his first year as head coach, Micallef led his team to a 26-6 overall record and back to the CUNYAC Championship Game, which Brooklyn last won in 2010.
Despite the loss, Micallef looked at the run to the championship game with admiration.
“I told my guys, I am so proud of them,” he said. “Even though we lost, no one can take away what we did this season.”