The Ramapo College men’s basketball team fell to Alfred University, 92-76, in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Friday, March 1. Their overall record for the season was18-10.
After receiving an NCAA at-large bid, this was the Roadrunners third consecutive year entering the tournament, and their ninth appearance in school history.
Although RCNJ did not score the first point of the game, they were able to get on the board early in the first half with a defensive rebound followed by a jump shot from Senior Rob McWilliams at 18:58. From there, AU had a 10-0 run, which left Ramapo trailing by 11 points with just under 18 minutes left on the clock. Kashaun Barnes was able to break the streak by recording a successful pair of free throws and gaining momentum for Ramapo. Matt Latka was able to further cut the lead to seven points after contributing a layup in the paint.
Each team exchanged baskets until Junior Rob McWilliams contributed back-to-back three-pointers cutting AU’s lead to seven at 11:01. More baskets were tossed, and the Roadrunners slowly started to creep up on the Saxons. With 8:26 left on the clock, Connor Romano nailed a free throw, and then nailed two more 30 seconds later, starting a 6-0 for Ramapo. At 8:08 Mcwilliams was able to tie up the game, 29-29, with a layup in the paint. After the tie, RCNJ snagged the lead 29-21 with a fast breakaway from Jordan Zagadou.
In the remainder of the half, RCNJ held a tight defensive line, and an aggressive offensive one as the game tied four more times. Ramapo’s last basket of the half was secured by Latka sinking a free throw with only 51 seconds left of playing time. The half concluded with Ramapo trailing by four points, 46-42.
Senior Rob Lewis commented about how his team battled back after being down by 15 points in the first half. “We just had to keep fighting – the game wasn’t over and we’ve been in situations like that before and we work hard.” Lewis continued, “We knew we could get back into it, we just had to keep working, keep chipping, and just stay to what coach told us to do at the start of the game. We knew we could get back into it, it was just a matter of doing what we had to do.”
The second half began with a 14-3 run in the Saxons’ favor, extending their lead 60-45. The Roadrunners found themselves down by 15 again, when Barnes tallied a three-pointer at 14:03 and led Ramapo right into a 9-0 run. Both teams traded baskets for the remainder, but with four minutes left in the game, RCNJ was down by 18. Alfred University was able to hold their lead while Ramapo lost their momentum. In the end, the Saxons outscored the Roadrunners 92-76, and closed their season.
The Roadrunners still have a lot to be proud of as head coach Chuck McBreen stated, “I don’t think anyone except the people in the locker room thought we could do what we did this year. We lost five players from last year’s team- all starters. We only had 18 points coming back from last season and nobody thought we could do this.”
Congratulations to coach McBreen and the entire men’s basketball team for appearing in the NCAA tournament and defying all odds this season.