The Ramapo Roadrunners men’s basketball team (9-11) earned an important New Jersey Athletic Conference win as they handed The College of New Jersey (7-13) their fifth straight loss with a score of 89-73.
NJAC tournament contention was on the line as both teams came into the game with a conference record of 5-7. The Roadrunners were out for revenge after TCNJ beat them in their first meeting this season and owned the playoff tiebreaker.
A win would allow Ramapo to establish some breathing room in the race for the sixth and final playoff spot. Head coach Chuck McBreen used the pressure of Saturday’s game to motivate his squad.
“We needed to beat them to get full security of this last playoff spot. In case we end up in a tie with them, we can’t allow them to sweep us,” McBreen said.
The Roadrunners started the game with infectious intensity, jumping out to a 17-3 lead. Ramapo senior Terry Hicks was very aggressive, leading the attack by getting to the paint and drawing fouls. TCNJ’s star player, sophomore Bobby Brackett, felt the wrath of the Ramapo faithful as they ominously chanted his name, causing him to air-ball an early free throw.
Brackett dominated in the first meeting, scoring 24 points and grabbing 19 rebounds. Ramapo could only slow him down as he had 17 points and 15 rebounds Saturday, but McBreen said he was encouraged by his team’s play.
“Brackett is a great rebounder; the big part of this game was that he only got two offensive rebounds,” he said. “If we can neutralize the five spot, we’re going to win games the rest of the way.”
Ramapo’s offense became stagnant when the second unit took the floor and TCNJ was able to fight back, eventually taking a 21-19 lead. Sophomore Tyler Barnes provided a huge spark from the bench, ending the half with seven points and three rebounds in just six minutes of play.
“He was unbelievable off the bench [and] gave us great minutes,” McBreen said.
In the final minute, Ramapo scored five unanswered points, going into halftime with a 41-33 lead and the momentum in their favor.
The Roadrunners started the second half on a mission to put this game to bed early. Dribble penetration was breaking down TCNJ’s zone defense and leading to easy buckets. Sophomore Frank Nock led the team, playing all 40 minutes and filling the stat sheet with 15 points, eight rebounds, five assists and three steals.
“We tell our guys, if you can only impact the game by scoring, you’re one-dimensional, and Frank Nock is anything but one dimensional,” McBreen said.
The final five games of the season are all-conference games and should be treated as must wins for the Roadrunners. TCNJ and Montclair are both one game out of playoff contention and fighting for their tournament dreams.
McBreen said he is confident moving forward but knows this team has little room for error.
“Right now we own the sixth spot with the win today, so it’s really important that we get these next games on the road,” he said.
For their next match, the Roadrunners will travel to Montclair and face the Red Hawks on Wednesday, Feb. 5 at 8 p.m.