Baruch College men’s and women’s basketball teams honored their seniors before their final regular season games on Feb. 13. Senior Night is always a bittersweet evening for the graduating athletes and their coaches, families and teammates. It is the culmination of hundreds of hours spent on the court, whether they were grinding through practice sessions or gliding around defenders.
The Lady Bearcats ranked fourth in the CUNY Athletic Conference.
However, the Lady Bearcats were ineligible for postseason competition in 2017. Between 2011 and 2015, Baruch’s former vice president of student affairs and enrollment management and former head coach provided student-athletes with improper financial aid benefits. As a result, The National Collegiate Athletic Association imposed a one-season ban on the teams.
Knowing that the night would be the last time they donned the white and powder blue uniforms, Veronica Ganzi, Jacqueline Kennedy and Kristen Podlovits smiled through their warm ups before the players introduced themselves.
Kennedy, who transferred from Division II Holy Family University two years ago, dominated the painted area at the center position. She finished her career with 84 blocked shots, sixth-most in Bearcats history. The 6-footer earned CUNYAC First Team All-Stars honors as well as the Defensive Player of the Year for the 2015-16 season.
More remarkable than any award, she tore the ACL in her left knee near end of last season, yet recovered in time to rejoin her teammates for the first exhibition match of the 2016-17 season. Kennedy averaged 19.2 points per game along with 9.2 rebounds, three steals and 1.7 blocks while shooting 56.2 percent from the field 10 games into the season before her right knee buckled on New Year's Eve.
As she was introduced to the fans in the Athletics and Recreation Center, her family erupted, as did Ganzi’s and Podlovits’ when they were introduced. The co-captains, once key players on championship-winning teams as underclassmen, matured into the catalysts of a potent offense. If Ganzi is the fuel, then Podlovits is the spark plug—the duo ranks second and fourth all-time in 3-pointers made, respectively. Ganzi is third in total points scored and Podlovits is third in assists per game. Both starters played nearly the entire match every week as they shared the burden of kick-starting the offense.
As the team’s game against the John Jay Bloodhounds tipped into action, the Bearcats confronted a 3-2 zone defense designed to irritate the shooters on the perimeter. For a three-minute stretch, it worked. Ganzi broke the scoring drought with a 3-pointer from the right wing. The Bearcats entered a 2-3 zone defense meant to seal the paint and prevent inside attempts, but the Bloodhounds responded by hitting two jumpers. Daniela Arias and Ganzi fired back two more 3-pointers, but the offense stalled whenever it wandered near the paint.
The second quarter featured several adjustments by both sides. The Bloodhounds shifted their defensive alignment again, this time into a 1-2-2 zone to slow down the Bearcats’ confident shooters. The Bearcats countered by slashing through gaps in the defense and forcing turnovers, which lead to easy layups and game-high 10 points scored in the paint that quarter.
With the score of 30-16 entering the third quarter and an injured Kennedy yet to score, coach Barrett opted to keep her next to the Bloodhounds’ basket while the Bearcats were on defense.
While this set up a four-on-five scenario that was ready for John Jay to exploit, Ganzi snagged a rebound and chucked it to Kennedy, who sunk the layup.
Junior forward Shannon Barrett was active in the low post, finishing with 15 points and 16 rebounds. Arias matched Podlovits for a game-high of six steals. Unafraid to dive for loose balls or barrel through defenders, Arias and Barrett appear to be the focal points of this offense entering next season.
The seniors ended their illustrious careers in style. With the win secured and only 26 seconds until the end of the game, Ganzi passed the ball to Podlovits, who swished home a 3-pointer. Coach Barrett subbed out all three seniors at once, allowing them to absorb the moment after their 62-34 win as they received one last applause.
Although Dwayne Brydie played just one season as a Bearcat after transferring from Queensborough Community College, the Virginia native added veteran savvy to a youth-filled roster. Brydie’s teammates and coaches clapped and hollered as they joined him and his family at center court for a photo.
The men seemed to mirror the women in the first three minutes; sloppy play from both teams ended thanks to a 3-pointer by a senior—in this case, Brydie from the right wing. He maintained Baruch’s offensive integrity and frequently passed on shots to get his teammates great shots. He went 3-for-4 from 3-point range in the first half, including a buzzer-beater to end the half.
Baruch’s offense is predicated on fluid ball movement, pick-and-roll execution and post-ups on the block. Allen Villar asserted himself with a block early in the low post. He followed with a hard-dribble move around John Jay’s Kiernan Hayes for a layup. The game plan often involves feeding the ball to Villar near the rim and letting him work one-on-one against an opposing big.
The Bloodhounds dissected the Bearcats’ defense at the start the second half. Open-cutting lanes and a lack of communication left Baruch vulnerable to double on-ball screens. John Jay then maximized the width of the court by spreading evenly across the 3-point line.
Baruch answered with a swarming defense, highlighted by co-captain Bryler Paige snatching a pass mid-flight and streaking down for a layup with a foul shot to follow. John Jay went into a press defense and forced a turnover to keep the game within six, but the Sixsmith brothers knock down their foul shots and Doyin Isaac blocked a layup to secure the 59-49 victory.
For his efforts on the court and his dedication to his family, Brydie earned the Burt Beagle Sportsmanship of the Year award. He had at least one more game in his future as the men’s team hosted the quarterfinals of CUNYAC tournament in the ARC on Feb. 19. The match ended after press time.