The season is over for the men’s basketball team as it came up short against Ramapo College in the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) Playoffs First Round game after qualifying for the postseason with a win over Rutgers University-Camden (5-19).
The College finished the season with a 12-14 overall record and went 5-9 in the NJAC.
Monday’s 77-61 playoff loss to Ramapo College ended the Lions’ season. The Roadrunners led by only three points at halftime, 31-28, thanks to a strong eight- point first half by senior guard Brian Halligan.
The Lions tied the game at 33 early in the second half thanks to a three-point shot by sophomore guard Jeff Molinelli. Ramapo then pulled away with a 9-0 run to push the score to 42-33. Outshooting the Lions 66.7 percent to 35.3 percent during the second half, the Roadrunners took control of the game, leading by as many as 18 points before the final buzzer.
Going into the game, head coach John Castaldo knew the game would be a difficult one for the Lions to win.
“In terms of our preparation for the playoffs we know we are surely the underdog going up to a well-balanced, experienced Ramapo team that handled us pretty good a few weeks ago,” Castaldo said. “We’ll prepare to play solid defense, take good shots and play aggressively.” The Lions were dominated in the paint 38-18, while the bench players were outscored by Ramapo 25-9.
In his final game, Halligan led the Lions with 17 points, six rebounds and five steals. Molinelli and junior forward Mark Aziz joined Halligan in scoring double-figures with 12 and 10, respectively.
The Lions qualified for the tournament after Kean University fell to Rutgers-Camden 86-77 on Saturday.
“I went crazy when I found out that we were in the playoffs,” Molinelli said. “I could not believe that we got in. It is just an amazing feeling.”
Wednesday’s 70-56 victory over Rutgers-Camden kept the Lions’ playoff hopes alive.
“The win was important for two reasons,” freshman guard Jay Frank said. “One reason was because it still kept us in the playoff hunt. The second reason it was important was because if this was our last game, we wanted to make sure that Shaggy (Halligan) and Drew (Rosenfeld) went out with a win.”
Despite out-rebounding the Lions 22-17 in the first half, the Scarlet Raptors could not convert the extra possessions into points. The Lions shot 46.2 percent from the field during the first half, while holding Rutgers to just 24.1 percent. The Lions led all the way during the first 20 minutes, taking a 29-18 lead into halftime.
Rutgers improved its shooting during the second half to 54.5 percent, but was still bested by the Lions’ blistering 57.6 percent shooting. The Lions controlled the game throughout the half and led by as many as 30 points en route to a 70-56 win.
Halligan paced the Lions in his final game, scoring a game-high 19 points. Junior guard Corey Gilmore added 13 points and Aziz rounded out the Lions’ double-digit scorers with 10 points. Senior guard Drew Rosenfeld also contributed seven points and a career-high nine assists.
For Rutgers, senior forward Sydney Francis recorded a double-double, scoring 12 points and grabbing a game-high 11 rebounds.
The win over Rutgers was the 200th career victory for Castaldo. Closing out his 14th season as the men’s basketball coach, Castaldo has amassed a record of 200-148 while coaching for his alma mater.
“The 200th win is nice combined with my 210 wins in high school. It just means I have been coaching for a while,” Castaldo said. “To me the value is placed more on the positive impact on the lives of the players that have played for me. The players that have played for me have also given 110 percent on and off the court. At times it doesn’t show in the win/loss column, but in the end it shows up in real life.”