The College men s basketball team finally got the break it needed in its attempt to win its second straight game for the first time in nearly a month.
The Lions, whose last five league losses have averaged a margin of less than five points, were determined not to let another close game out of their grasp.
Even when trailing by three points with 4.8 seconds left in regulation, the Lions were able to put the game into overtime thanks to junior guard Bobby Henning’s off-balance three-pointer with two-tenths of a second remaining.
The College was ultimately able to defeat William Paterson University 70-66 on Saturday inside a crowded Packer Hall.
“My biggest fear (about the team’s league struggles) was that the kids would stop believing in themselves,” head coach John Castaldo said.
Thanks to stong efforts by sophomore forward Scott Findlay and junior forward Derick Grant, the Lions improved their record to 12-8 overall and 3-6 in the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC), while the loss dropped the Pioneers to 13-9 overall and 4-6 in NJAC play. The Lions’ victory evened the score with the Pioneers this season.
The Pioneers won the squads’ first meeting this season in overtime on a last-second shot. This time, the Lions were the team beating the buzzer.
The game, which featured 12 lead changes, was filled with spectacular plays on both sides in the final seconds of the tense second half.
Derick Grant tied the game at 55-55 with 14.7 seconds remaining on a highly contested three pointer.
William Paterson senior guard Khayri Battle responded, scoring three of his 14 points on a driving three-point play with 4.8 seconds left.
After Battle s free throw went through the net, the Lions, who had no timeouts left, put the ball in Hennings hands. He took the ball down the court himself and hoisted his game-tying shot just outside the three-point line.
“It was a tremendous effort by our guys. They made big shots,” Castaldo said. The Lions outscored the Pioneers 12-8 in the extra period to win the game. Junior guard Kyle Burke had six of his 19 points in the overtime on two three-pointers. The game was in doubt until Scott Findlay made two free throws with six seconds left to clinch the game.
“It was a great game to be a part of,” Findlay said. “This has been a frustrating season, but we definitely put it all together today.”
Early in the game, it appeared that the Lions might not even make it competitive. William Paterson took advantage of the College s turnovers and poor shooting to take a 17-3 lead more than eight minutes into the game.
“We looked a little tentative, and we weren t being as aggressive as we needed to be,” Castaldo said. “It also came down to the fact that we couldn’t make any shots early.”
“We were probably a little anxious, tentative at the start,” Findlay said. “Once we calmed down we were able to have success.”
It quickly became apparent that the game would not be a blowout, as the Lions responded by going on their own 18-3 run over the next six minutes to take a 24-20 lead and get back in the game.
The College shot 11-for-23 from three-point range, including Burke’s 5-of-9. Findlay finished with a team-high 22 points and 14 rebounds, while the Lions leading scorer on the season, Grant, had 21 points.
Senior guard Brandon Constantine scored a game-high 23 points to pace the Pioneers, who suffered their fourth consecutive NJAC loss.
In addition to his clutch basket at the end of regulation, Battle played a solid all-around game for William Paterson, chipping in with 14 points, nine rebounds, four blocked shots, four assists and four steals.
Earlier in the week, the College was able to get a convincing victory over Rutgers University-Camden by the score of 94-77. The Lions handed the Scarlet Raptors their 15th loss of the season in their visit to Camden on Wednesday night. Grant had 25 points, while Findlay contributed 18 points and 13 rebounds.
The Lions got their lead in the first half through defense, as they allowed only 26 first-half points to the Scarlet Raptors in gaining a 39-26 lead. They maintained the lead, though, due to their blistering offensive performance in the second half.
The Lions made 19-of-20 free throws, and 17-of-32 field goal attempts in the second half to put 55 points on the board in the game’s final 20 minutes.
The Lions will try to win their third straight game when they play at Montclair State University on Wednesday, Feb. 11 at 8 p.m. The Lions won the previous meeting between the teams this season with a 73-63 home victory.