PURCHASE — The New England Patriots of the early-2000s, the Los Angeles Lakers of the mid-2000s, and the Purchase College men’s basketball team of the early 2010s… dynasties.
For the third time in four years, No. 2 Purchase captured the men’s basketball Skyline championship, redeeming last season’s loss to Farmingdale State by defeating the No. 4 Rams 71-48 in front of a capacity home crowd Saturday night.
After trailing by one at halftime, Panthers coach Jeff Charney said the team’s own worst enemy was themselves.
“The first half was a little sluggish, it was a like a prize fight where you feel each other out,” he said. “I didn’t have to tell (the team) anything (at halftime), we just had to run our stuff and hit some shots, and we did. After that it was all over.”
The Panthers erupted for 52 second-half points after scoring just 19 to open the game.
“We locked (Farmingdale) up playing D, now we just needed to put the ball in the cup, and that’s what we did,” senior Craig Davis said. “We lost last year by almost the same amount … payback is lovely — I love it!”
Davis (right) was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player after scoring 15 points and grabbing seven rebounds in the title game.
Even though he was not a member of the previous two championship teams, Davis said he knew all about the team’s winning ways.
“This is a good program, we win — that’s what we do,” he said. “There’s nothing else to say.”
Purchase sophomore Joel Neri was assigned the tough task of guarding Farmingdale’s standout center, A.J. Matthews, who is reportedly being scouted by NBA teams such as the Toronto Raptors and New York Knicks.
“He’s being scouted by the NBA, but to me that means nothing,” the 7-foot-1 Port Chester grad said. “It’s just another player to me.”
Neri finished the game with eight points and six rebounds.
After a rebuilding year last season, in which the Panthers still managed to make the title game as the No. 5 seed despite a 12-13 regular season record, Purchase is back on top this year.
Charney coached the Panthers (22-5) to their third 20-win season in the last four years, all of which have now led to Skyline championships. During his tenure as the full-time coach, the Panthers are now 95-33 overall, with a stellar 11-4 mark in the postseason (10-2 in Skyline tournament, 1-2 in NCAA D3 tournament).
The Panthers will head back to the NCAA Division III tournament next week, although their game time and opponent is still to be determined. The annual “Selection Show” will be held on Monday at 12:30 p.m. on the NCAA home page.
It is likely that the Panthers will be a higher seed than their opponent, meaning they could possibly host an opening round game.
Unfortunately for the Purchase women, the day didn’t bring the same happiness as it did for the men.
The Panthers fell to Farmingdale’s women’s squad 40-39 in truly heartbreaking loss.
Leading most of the game, the Panthers were up into the final seconds of regulation when Farmingdale drew a foul with 9.7 seconds left on the clock trailing by a point. Despite a lowly 1-for-8 team shooting display from the charity stripe in the half up until that point, junior Nicky Young sank both free throws to give the Rams a one-point lead.
Following a timeout, Purchase broke the Farmingdale press on the next possession with seconds remaining. Purchase senior Jess Lindsay made a pinpoint pass to fellow senior Jalisa Fields underneath the hoop.
Fields went straight up for the layup attempt with no backboard, and fell inches short of the game-winning basket.
After four consecutive losing seasons, in which the Panthers were 38-65, first-year coach Kellianne Dunlay propelled the Panthers (17-10) to their first Skyline championship game appearance in program history.
The Panthers will move onto the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference tournament, which starts next week. More details to follow.
I’m working on uploading video of the final seconds of both games.