The Ramapo Roadrunners men's basketball team defeated Rutgers-Newark University on Friday to capture the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) championship. The Roadrunners won in a 67-65 nail-biter to secure their third conference title in the last eight years.
The game started at a fast pace, with the Scarlet Raiders scoring the game's first six points. Both teams exchanged blows in spurts, and 10 minutes into the game Rutgers held a narrow edge of 17-12. However, after seven straight points by the Roadrunners-including a big 3-pointer by senior guard Will Sanborn-along with four straight turnovers by the Raiders, Ramapo obtained the lead once more. Rutgers-Newark took a 30-27 lead into halftime, but momentum seemed to favor the home team in the Bradley Center.
"I have gone to school here for three years now, and this has to be the most fun game I have ever seen," junior Samantha Keenan said.
The second half of the game was no different from the first; it remained back-and-forth with high intensity and physicality on both ends of the court. Rutgers started strong off the break, but back-to-back 3-pointers by Sanborn, the game's leading scorer, gave Ramapo a slight edge.
Rutgers-Newark found itself in foul trouble quickly, committing at least seven fouls 10 minutes into the second half, giving the Roadrunners easy points from the foul line.
Ramapo maintained the slim lead throughout the remainder of the half, until Rutgers-Newark stepped up the defensive pressure, double-teaming the ball. The Raiders, down by two, got the ball back with roughly six seconds left in regulation. Both sides of the bleachers erupted as the teams got into position for the last play of the game. The Roadrunners defense immediately swarmed to the ball and forced a desperation 3-pointer, sealing the deal and becoming conference champions.
After the crowd stormed the court and was finally removed, Ramapo was given the championship trophy for the first time since the 2006-07 season. The night was topped off with the ceremonial cutting down of the net, a signature moment in the team's season.
Senior captain Garret Thiel led the Roadrunners to victory with a solid defensive effort, hustling in every facet of the game. Every Roadrunner that touched the court played a significant role in the team's victory, including seniors Sanborn, Anthony LoRusso, Elgin Brown and Stephon Treadwell, who all scored double-digit points. In the end, it collectively led to a Roadrunners victory and championship, but the season is not over yet.
With this victory Ramapo has clinched a berth in the NCAA Division III tournament. On Monday, it was announced that the Roadrunners will play their first game of the tournament on Saturday, March 2 against Morrisville State College. The Mustangs finished the season at 21-5 and won the North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC) championship. The game will take place at 7 p.m. at Nyack College in Nyack, NY.