By Otto Gomez
For the first time in six years, the Lions men’s basketball team qualified for the New Jersey Athletic Conference Championship Tournament after a 76-71 come-from-behind win against Ramapo College on Wednesday, Feb. 11.
The Lions managed to fight their way back after being down 36 of the possible 40 minutes of the game to defeat the Roadrunners and improve to 13-10. While both teams ended up with the same record after the final whistle, the Lions possessed a better conference record, having swept the Roadrunners in their two-game season series. With only two games left in the regular season, it’s too late for Ramapo to catch up.
While the team was down 10 points in the first half, the Lions showed no sign of giving up and slowly diminished the lead in the second half. They showed their depth on offense as leading scorer, senior Jayson Johnson, dropped 16 points along with nine rebounds. Freshman Eric Murdock, Jr. scored 12 points and dished out five assists, and sophomore Eric Klacik finished with 11 points.
The big story on offense, however, was junior Bobby Brackett, who stepped up in an incredible way with a game-high of 25 points and 11 rebounds.
“This year I haven’t been the main guy to score for us because so many other guys have stepped up throughout the season,” Brackett said. “Against Ramapo, it was just my time to step up, try to be more aggressive and score for us, and it was really nice to get that win.”
With four minutes left in the game, he sank a free throw to even up the score for the first time all day. It was not until very late in the game — when Brackett and Klacik hit a pair of free throws each — that the game was sealed.
The Lions continued their strong play into their matchup with 22nd-ranked William Paterson, a team that beat them 78-60 earlier in the season. In similar fashion to many of their previous games, the team got off to a slow offensive start in the first half, but this time around they were able to pick up the pace right before halftime, leading 38-37 at the break. Johnson led all scorers with 25 points, putting his career total at 964, backed up by 17 points and 11 rebounds from Brackett.
“I definitely make it my main focus every game to rebound the ball,” Brackett said. “The coaches tell us all the time if we outrebound the other team and limit our turnovers, we’ll have a great chance to win. So I really try to make an effort to rebound the ball as much as I can.”
Klacik and freshman Kevin Johnson finished with double digit scoring with 13 and 10 respectively, contributing to the 80-70 win.
The Lions look to finish off the season strong on a high note against Kean University in Packer Hall on Wednesday, Feb. 18, at 8 p.m.