By Adam Zaki
Published: February 28th, 2018
For the first time since 1980, the Brooklyn College women’s basketball team won the City University of New York Athletic Conference (CUNYAC) Championship, defeating the College of Staten Island (CSI) 59-50 at City College’s Nat Holman Gymnasium on Friday.
Channel Jemmott’s play in the second half carried Brooklyn, as her second-half performance of 10 points and eight rebounds kept her team in the game when it mattered most. Despite Staten Island’s best attempts at making a comeback, Jemmott’s rebounds and put-back baskets kept Brooklyn competitive.
“I’m thankful for having teammates and coaching staff that have the utmost faith in me,” Jemmott told reporters after the game. “We all worked so hard for this, it’s well deserved.”
Jemmott would go on to foul out in the final minutes, ending her game with an 18-point, 14-rebound double-double. She was named Most Valuable Player for the game, an extremely impressive achievement for a freshman coming off the bench.
A combination of good defense and major momentum shifts allowed Brooklyn to beat its biggest conference rival.
The third quarter was the biggest test of toughness for Brooklyn. Staten Island came out of the halftime break on a 14-1 run. With 4:59 left in the quarter, Staten Island’s Samantha Flecker hit a jump shot that topped off a CSI comeback by giving the Dolphins its first lead since the opening minutes.
But with 53 seconds left in the third quarter, Staten Island head coach Tim Shanahan’s ejection due to a double technical foul call received mix reactions from players and members of the crowd, and destroyed any momentum that CSI had.
For the rest of the contest, it seemed as if some members of the Dolphins players began to check out while their head coach was waiting in the locker room when Brooklyn began to pull away. As a BC victory became seemingly inevitable, the rest of Staten Island’s coaching staff seemed to have no answer for the Bulldogs until the final minutes. Despite ending the last three minutes on a 10-0 run, the Dolphins’ comeback was relatively meaningless.
After the game, BC head coach Alex Lang gave the highest praise to his team and coaching staff. In his 16th season, Lang finally celebrated his first CUNYAC championship.
“It’s hard to get here,” he said to WBCR after the game.
In addition to the Bulldogs holding CSI to just 6-of-36 shooting in the first half, All-CUNYAC First Teamer Karen Mak’s four assists and Jemmott’s eight points gave Brooklyn a significant advantage to open the game. In a first half that favored the Bulldogs, a three-point buzzer-beater by Taylor George gave the Bulldogs all the momentum, as well as a 12-point lead going into the halftime break.
George was right behind Jemmott in scoring for the Bulldogs, and finished with 15 points, going 4-of-8 from the field and a perfect 3-of-3 from distance. Along with Mak’s seven points and seven assists, the Bulldogs were able to outlast a defensive slugfest with one of the conference’s most scrappy opponents.
After carrying her team in the semifinal matchup, Brooklyn’s Weronica Green stayed quiet on the stat sheet in the championship contest. In the final games of the season, Green has played her best basketball. Her career started slow, and she flew under the radar for this championship game, but her presence on the court and other intangibles had a huge impact in this important game.
Alexandra Moogan was able to make an impact despite not being able to find her consistent shot throughout the contest. Despite finishing with just six points off of 2-of-13 shooting, Moogan’s two blocks and 10 rebounds is another example of how her game as progressed in her third season.
Moogan’s ability to bring energy and tenacity to the floor when her team needs it most is a vital complement to her usually spectacular shooting ability. As consistency and lapses in energy were a problem that haunted the Bulldogs to start the season, Moogan took the role of maintaining energy on the floor by being a vocal leader. Her ability to lead both on the court and around the stat sheet makes her the focal point of next year’s hopes at a championship repeat.
“[Mak and Moogan] really gave good leadership today, and our other players followed suit,” Lang said. “The other night after the [semifinal] game, I told [the bench] I didn’t play you guys enough tonight, so Friday be ready: you’re going to play a lot more.”
Lang named both Emma Somers and Grace Martinez-Espina as those contributors coming off the bench, as the two combined for seven points in the game. Martinez-Espina’s display of consistent hustle at both ends of the floor is usual for her, but her biggest impact of the game was a memorable three-point shot in the final minutes of the second quarter that put the Bulldogs up by 12 points.
Brooklyn’s on-ball defense gave the Dolphins a world of trouble on the offensive end, as CSI’s leading scorer and top-tier guard Christina Pasaturo was completely shut down in the matchup. She was held to just 4-of-24 shooting and missed all thirteen of her shots from beyond the arc.
The Bulldogs have earned themselves an automatic bid to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division III tournament, and have finally overcome the hump of winning a conference championship. After appearing in the championship four out of the last five years, Brooklyn was finally able to become CUNYAC’s top program.
The Bulldogs will travel to Scranton, PA on Friday, March 2 to take on Cabrini University in the First Round of the NCAA Division III tournament. The winner will advance to the Second Round the next day, and play the winner of the Scranton University vs. Keuka College matchup. With a roster of experienced talent, go-to scorers, commitment to defense, and an experienced coaching staff, predicting the outcome of the Bulldogs’ NCAA tournament run would be impossible.
The possibilities are endless for Brooklyn College, and the team will look to go on a deep run into the tournament, with every win keeping the club’s most memorable season in decades alive.