Lions hope to build on unexpected success

Surpassing expectations, the men’s basketball team had a successful season that ended in a first-round New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) playoff loss to Ramapo College.

The Lions ended the year with a record of 12-14 overall and 5-8 in the conference. Going into the season, the Lions were projected to finish ninth in the NJAC.

Besting its preseason ranking, the College placed third in the NJAC South Division and qualified for the postseason.

“When you combine this with us only returning 10 players from last year’s lineup and no starters, I feel us winning 12 games, finishing in 3rd in the South Division of the NJAC and making the playoffs is good foundation to build upon,” head coach John Castaldo said. “We’ve had big wins over Jersey City, William Paterson, Montclair, a triple-overtime win over Muhlenberg and some good hard-fought games.”

Two senior players, guard Brian Halligan and guard Drew Rosenfeld, will not be returning next year. Halligan served as one of the team leaders this season, starting all 26 games. He finished second on the team in scoring with 11.3 points per game and led the team in steals with 41 on the season.

Rosenfeld played in all 26 games this season, contributing 3.6 points, 1.2 rebounds and two assists per game off the bench.

“Drew and I know what it is like coming up through the program,” Halligan said. “I am glad we could provide the young guys with a learning experience. Mark (Aziz) and Corey (Gilmore) are going to be a force next season. It is all about confidence and experience, and those two, I think, will be great leaders.”

Junior forward Mark Aziz, guard Corey Gilmore and forward Jeff Warner will look to become the senior leaders going into next season.

Aziz carried the Lions all season and was one of the Lions’ top players this year, leading the team in scoring (14.9 points per game), rebounding (6.1 per game) and blocks (42). He is ranked 10th in the conference in scoring and was named to the NJAC Men’s Basketball All-Conference Honorable Mention Team.

Gilmore started every game at point guard for the Lions and led the team in assists with 3.2 per game. He was third on the team with 8.1 points per game and averaged 2.5 rebounds.

Warner added 5.7 points and three rebounds per game for the Lions this season while starting 14 games.

The rising senior class does not have the only players that can make an impact in the upcoming season.

Sophomore guard Jeff Molinelli and freshman guard Jay Frank should play an even larger role in the future. Frank averaged 6.8 points and 2.2 rebounds per game, while Molinelli averaged six points and 3.1 rebounds per game.

“For next year, in the offseason, I plan to work out extremely hard in the weight room … and I am going to be taking about 300 shots a day while working on my defense,” Frank said. “For my sophomore year I expect to be an integral part of our team’s success. As a team, we will improve greatly.”