Lions win thriller in NJAC opener

The College’s men’s basketball team kicked off New Jersey Athletic Conference play with a 72-70 win over the New Jersey City University (NJCU) Gothic Knights.

After a loss to the University of Scranton Royals Monday, the Lions are 4-3 overall and 1-0 in the conference.

The Lions took a 31-28 lead into halftime against the Gothic Knights thanks to dominance from the three-point line. Taking aim from long-range, the Lions shot 45.5 percent from three-point territory while holding the Gothic Knights to just 25 percent in the half.

Senior guard Brian Halligan paced the Lions in the first half by draining four three-pointers and grabbing 10 rebounds. He finished the game with a double-double, 16 points and 14 rebounds.

After the half, the Lions built a 44-30 lead with the help of sophomore guard Jeff Molinelli.

His back-to-back three-pointers began a run of five straight shots for the Lions. It also sparked an offensively impressive second half, in which the Lions shot 63.3 percent from the field on 14-for-22 shooting.

“It started the half on the right foot,” Molinelli said about his early second half shooting. “It was a great way to begin the half, and we all started hitting shots after that.”

Freshman guard Josh Lopez responded for the Gothic Knights by scoring 10 points in under a minute, including three straight three-pointers. Until that point in the season, Lopez had only recorded nine points total. He finished the game with 20 points and four rebounds.

Two Lions turnovers allowed NJCU to pull within four, 71-67. Another Lopez three-pointer made it a one-point game. Junior forward Mark Aziz was fouled with 25 seconds remaining and made one of two free throws to put the Lions up by two.

With time expiring, Lopez missed a three-point shot to win the game. His only misfire of the night ensured a Lions victory.

Aziz finished with 19 points, eight rebounds and two blocks. Junior guard Corey Gilmore also chipped in a career-high 15 points.

“It is huge to start off well by winning our first conference game,” Molinelli said. “Not a lot of people expected us to get this win, and I think it will give all of us a lot of confidence as we continue the season.”

The Lions lost 71-49 against the Royals on Monday night.

Scranton sophomore forward Paul Biagioli scored a career-high 18 points for the Royals in his first career start. Royals sophomore forward Paul Hawk collected a double-double on 15 points and 10 rebounds.

Lions junior forward Jeff Warner led the Lions with 18 points on 7-for-12 shooting, including 4-for-9 from three-point range.

Aziz picked up seven points and had a team-high five rebounds as the the College was out rebounded, 38-23.

In the loss, the Lions shot 36.5 percent from the field and 55.6 percent from the free-throw line, while the Royals shot 51.8 percent from the field and 80 percent from from the line.

The Lions’ next game takes place tonight against the Cougars of Kean University at 8 p.m.