Baruch men's basketball team clinches win with football play

Courtesy of Baruch Athletics

Courtesy of Baruch Athletics

Baruch College’s men’s basketball team has won the CUNY Athletic Conference with a 76-74 victory over the two-time defending champion College of Staten Island Dolphins. The game was a nail-biter from the opening tip-off through the very last buzzer, and it ended in pure happiness for the No. 1 seeded Bearcats.

To start from the beginning of their championship run, the Bearcats finished the season with an overall record of 20-5 and were 14-2 in CUNYAC play, which gave them the top-seed and a first-round bye in the playoffs. They matched up with Brooklyn College, after the Bulldogs ran through Medgar Evers College by the score of 92-69.

Coming into the game, the biggest test for Baruch was containing Brooklyn’s junior guard Anthony McClean, who dropped 41 points on Medgar Evers. After getting out to an early 12-9 lead, the Bearcats never looked back. Going into halftime, Baruch led 37-22 and senior Bryler Paige completely took over the game, outscoring everybody with 15 points. Baruch’s strong defense held up as well, as Brooklyn shot a measly 25 percent from the field.

In the second half, the Bearcats played slow, taking as much time off the clock as possible. With just under six minutes left in the game, it seemed that Brooklyn was making a comeback, cutting the deficit to only eight, while Baruch’s shooting went cold.

After a three-point shot by Andre Harris, to put the lead back to 11 points, Paige took over once again, increasing the lead to 17 points.

Baruch went on to dominate the game and won by a score of 73-59. Paige led with 28 points, on 9-19 shooting and 4-9 shooting from behind the arc. Harris had a very strong game as he posted a double-double of 19 points and 12 rebounds. Brooklyn’s McClean was held to only 14 points in the loss.

Baruch’s win over Brooklyn, and CSI’s win over John Jay in the semifinal game, set the scene for the CUNYAC Championship Game held at Hunter College. During the regular season, Baruch and CSI split their season series, with CSI routing Baruch 74-49 in Staten Island and Baruch winning 82-78 in the ARC Arena. It was set up to be a very tough matchup and that is what it was.

Six minutes into the game, Staten Island went up by 10 points and it looked that it would run away with the game, until senior Harris put the team on his back. He went on to score four of Baruch’s next five baskets, and after a layup made by senior William Sixsmith the game was tied at 22. The score continued to go back-and-forth. Once one team took the lead, the other either tied it or took the lead right back. However, with the game clock running down in the first half, Harris capped off his magnificent scoring run with a gorgeous fadeaway three-pointer in the corner while the clocks hit 0.0, putting Baruch up 37-34 going into the half.

The biggest story of the first half was clearly Harris, who shot a near perfect 7-9 from the field and 2-2 from three, giving him a game-leading 17 points. On the CSI side, forward Rigaud Destime was scoring at will with 14 points. CUNYAC Player of the Year and CSI senior guard Christian Taylor only had two points on 1-5 shooting.

The second half was more of the same, in comparison to the first. The largest lead was five points for Baruch, after Paige opened up scoring with a layup at the start of the second half. With Harris going a bit cold, junior forward Benjamin Boateng was giving the Bearcats life, as he was playing with much-needed energy. Boateng shot 5-7 with 10 points, eight rebounds and was showing his presence on the defensive side under the basket in the second half.

After a lot of back-and-forth play, it came down to under a minute left in the game. After a foul by CSI on Harris with 15 seconds left, Baruch went up 74-71, after Harris made both free throws. CUNYAC POTY Taylor took the ball up and with 4 seconds remaining hit the biggest shot of his season, a three-pointer to tie the game up at 74, followed by a CSI timeout. Up to this point Taylor was 2-9 with only five points — a very poor game.

Coming out of the timeout, Baruch had just over four seconds to go the length of the court to win the game. Head coach John Alesi called a football style play, in which all five players started out of bounds, with Paige inbounding the floor.

The player’s ran a four-man rush, eliminating inbound pressure from the defense. Paige inbounded it to a sprinting Jack Sixsmith who quickly passed it to Boateng, who turned around and drained the game-winning shot with 0.2 seconds left on the clock. After an unsuccessful full-court heave by CSI, Baruch and its fans went into full celebration, as the team officially became the 2018-2019 CUNYAC Men’s Basketball Champions.

Boateng and Paige were named to the CUNYAC All-Tournament team, and Andre Harris was named the tournament’s MVP after his 28-point dominance in the championship game.