By Miguel Gonzalez
and Alexander Reich
Sports Editor and Staff Writer
The Lions suffered a tough 95-86 loss against William Paterson University in the New Jersey Athletic Conference semifinals at Packer Hall on Feb. 21.
Sophomore guard Randall Walko wasn’t surprised by the Lions’ loss.
“I know our guys lost to William Paterson earlier in the season, so we aren’t surprised,” Walko said. “They have some major firepower and are very well coached. It’s definitely going to take a team effort all around to advance to the next round.”
Prior to the game, head coach Matthew Goldsmith also acknowledged William Paterson’s talent.
“William Paterson is an extremely talented team with a great coach,” Goldsmith said. “They will be ready to go Wednesday night. They do a great job of forcing their opponent to play their style. They were great in their last game and are hitting their stride at the right time in the season.”
Goldsmith was excited for the team to compete at home in Packer Hall for the NJAC semifinals.
“I think the team is extremely excited to be playing in the playoffs first and foremost, and to have a game at home is even better,” Goldsmith said. “Being in Packer always gives us a huge boost because our fans are so loud and into the game.”
From the beginning, the Lions attacked William Paterson’s basket. After the tip off, sophomore guard Niall Carpenter went on a fast break to score the first two points of the game.
In the third minute, William Paterson built up a 10-2 lead. Carpenter stopped their momentum and drove to the basket for a smooth layup, drawing a foul in the process. He then sunk the free throw to decrease the Lions deficit to 10-5.
From there, the Lions offensive rhythm improved. In the eighth minute, Walko went straight to the paint and threw in a layup to put the Lions ahead, 13-10. Walko wasn’t done yet, draining a three-pointer just a few possessions later. After a great performance early on, the Lions kept the crowd on their feet with their aggression.
In the ninth minute, Carpenter was fouled and made two free throws that increased the Lions’ lead to 18-13. The Lions kept attacking the offensive boards and shutting down William Paterson’s scoring opportunities.
With only two minutes left in the first quarter, junior forward Jordan Glover sunk a layup in the paint for the Lions. Meanwhile, sophomore forward Mike Walley had an outstanding half coming off the bench and drained a three-pointer to extend the Lions’ lead to 42-29.
Before the buzzer went off in the last few seconds of the half, Walko threw in a deep half court shot, firing up the home crowd.
In the start of the second half, the Lions began to slow down as William Paterson made a comeback. The Lions did attempt to stop William Paterson’s offense, but their opponent’s momentum proved to be too strong.
With 10 minutes remaining, the Lions tied the match at 65.
The game was not over yet, despite the Pioneers piling up points.
The Lions kept their hopes alive and cut William Paterson’s lead to six points with two minutes left in the game. Walko cut the team’s deficit to 85-80 when he made a layup. The Lions were only down by five points, but they couldn’t pull off the win in an intense playoff battle. The final score was 95-86, with William Paterson prevailing.
Walko says he did everything in his power to contribute to the team.
“I just try to do whatever I can to help the team win,” Walko said. “Whether it’s making shots, rebounding, defending, or whatever I can do to help and if my shot isn’t falling, I want to show I can contribute in other ways to help out the team in any way possible.”