Rocky men’s basketball season comes to an end

The men’s basketball team was eliminated from New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) playoff contention on Wednesday night when it lost to the Rowan University Profs 65-62. The Lions also dropped their season finale 80-77 in overtime on Saturday as they visited the Scarlet Raptors of Rutgers University-Camden.

The Lions finished the season with a 6-19 record and went 2-11 in NJAC competition.

To reach the NJAC playoffs, the Lions needed to win both of this week’s games and hope that Kean University dropped both of its games to Rowan and Richard Stockton College. Kean did lose both games, but the Lions were not able to capitalize on the opportunity.

Against Rowan, the Lions shot 43.8 percent from the field in the first half to take a 37-34 lead going into halftime.

Knowing their playoff chances were hanging in the balance, the Lions had a strong beginning to the second half, opening up a seven-point lead with 17 minutes left to go.

The game moved into the paint in the second half, becoming much more physical. Rowan slowly fought back to tie the score at 52 with seven minutes remaining. The last two minutes were a back-and-forth battle with Rowan managing to stay at least two points ahead at all times.

Down by three, junior guard Jeff Molinelli took the Lions’ last shot, a three-pointer that banged off the rim.

Senior forward Mark Aziz led all scorers on the night, tallying 20 points and eight rebounds in his final home game as a Lion. Senior guard Jeff Warner grabbed a game-high nine rebounds and netted 10 points of his own.

Being the last home game of the season, the contest was deemed “Senior Night.” Before the game, the Lions honored Aziz, Warner and senior guard Corey Gilmore.

Despite the loss, head coach Matt Hunter had no complaints about the effort the Lions brought.

“We had a good energy all game, and we battled hard for 40 minutes,” Hunter said.

Playing for nothing but pride on Saturday, the Lions fell short in overtime. They struggled to keep up with the Scarlet Raptors in the first half, trailing 40-32 at halftime.

The second half was a different story with the Lions dominating play. It seemed as if they were going to pull out the victory in regulation when the Raptors’ freshman guard Brandon Canty hit a three-pointer with 4.7 seconds left to tie the game at 73.

Overtime was a close battle the whole time, but the Raptors went ahead for good with 20.9 seconds left as sophomore forward Alex Rislin converted on a three-point play.

Sophomore guard Jay Frank put up a game-high 19 points, but the Lions had a balanced attack with three other players reaching double digits as well. Aziz, Molinelli and Gilmore added 16, 15 and 10 respectively. Warner was all over the boards again, grabbing 16 rebounds.

Though it was a tough season, Hunter had positive things to say about his players.

“We worked really hard this season,” Hunter said. “And at the end of the day, that’s what we have to hang our hat on.”