By Otto Gomez
The Lions finished a disappointing week with two very tough, close losses against fellow New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) opponents.
On Wednesday, Jan. 27, at home, the Stockton University Ospreys were able to beat up on the Lions for most of the game. While getting off to a 21-8 start, the Ospreys were able to continue playing well during the first half and took a 26-22 lead into the break.
In the second half, the Ospreys continued to play strong basketball, stretching the lead to 56-35. However, after a pair of three-point field goals from junior captain Eric Klacik and two free throws from sophomore forward Elias Bermudez, the lead was cut to 13 points with 7:28 left to play.
A couple of minutes later, another three points by Klacik kept the Lions at bay as the game entered the final minutes. Klacik has made a point of being a leader on both sides of the ball.
“My impact this year has been focused on being a leader vocally and how I play,” Klacik said. “I also put a lot of my effort in on the defensive end to make sure we are working together.”
He ended the game with 17 points on five of nine shooting, but it was not enough, as the Ospreys maintained the lead and went home with a 77-68 victory.
Looking to shake off their previous loss, the Lions traveled to Newark, N.J., to square off against Rutgers-Newark University. Unfortunately for the College, the team was unable to get off to a strong start once again, shooting just 28 percent from the field in the first half and giving the Lions a 31-24 deficit at the break.
The Scarlet Raiders continued to hold the lead for the rest of the game, and even when the Lions cut it to three points, the Raiders responded with a 13-3 run. Trailing by six with 1:27 remaining, Bermudez knocked down a pair of free throws. After a defensive stop, guard Eric Murdock, Jr. hit a jumper in the paint to close the gap to 59-57 with 33 seconds left on the clock. Scarlet Raider senior guard John Snow hit three free throws down the stretch to hold off the Lions and secure the home win.
After falling in two consecutive games due to slow first half starts, both players and coaches know what they have to do to be able to make the playoffs.
“One main adjustment we need to make is getting off to a good start each and every game,” Klacik said. “We have proven that we can pull off comebacks, but that’s not the game we want to play. If we can jump out on teams early, then I believe we are talented enough to be very successful. One other adjustment is playing a complete game of basketball for 40 minutes. When we play a complete 40, we are tough to beat.”