In mid to late February College and High School basketball teams jockey for post season spots. I traveled over the Sound to watch University of Rhode Island host Davidson on Saturday February 12th. Davidson came into the game with 20 wins and only 3 losses. They led the Atlantic 10 conference with a 10-1 record. The underdog Rams came into the game with a 12-10 record and they were 3-7 in the A-10. Davidson’s legendary coach Bob McKillop came into the game with 627 wins and 376 losses in 33 years coaching the Wildcats. Their starting lineup featured three players from overseas. 6ft 7” Junior Lee Hyunjung from S. Korea, 6ft 9” sophomore Sam Mennenga from New Zealand and 6ft 10” Senior Luka Brajkovic from Austria. Davidson came into the game winning 19 of their last 20 games and Rhode Island was on a 6 game losing streak. But there is a reason they play the games. After a 7-7 start URI went on a 14-2 run making it 21-9. During the run 6ft 10” Maryland transfer Makhel Mitchell had 6 points. When Makhel’s 6ft 9” brother Makhi Mitchell dunked a few possessions later URI had a 30-16 lead. Davidson had a 9 point run to bring it to 30-25. At halftime it was URI leading 40-35. In the 2nd half URI’s lead hovered around 5 points until Davidson out scored them 10-4 and made it 55-53. After a 3 pointer from 6ft 1” Graduate student Jeremy Sheppard and a Makhi Mitchell basket URI was back up 60-55 with 3:14 to go. URI won the game 72-65 after finishing with 12 of 14 points from the foul line. The Mitchell brothers combined for 27 points and 18 rebounds. Jeremy Sheppard had 23 points on 7 of 11 shooting with 3 of 5 from 3 point land.
Three days later I was at Mt. Vernon High School to watch the Knights host Green Tech Charter School from Albany. The Knights came into the game with a 16-0 record and ranked No.8 in NY Sportswriter’s Class AA(large school) Poll. Green Tech was ranked 12th with a 16-1 record in the AA poll. From the opening tip at 5:05 pm on February 15th to halftime at 5:40pm it was all Mt. Vernon. They led by 15 at half (40-25) and closed out the statement win (73-55) at 6:28pm. The win gave Mt. Vernon’s legendary coach Bob Cimmino his 569th win. He’s 569-113 in 28 years coaching the Knights. Mt. Vernon finished their perfect regular season at 17-O. As the No.1 seed in Section 1 Class AA, the Knights got a 1st round bye in the playoffs. As we go to press, the Knights are scheduled to host New Rochelle High at 100 California Rd. in the Ben Gordon Alumni Gym on Friday February 25th. New Rochelle High School is located just 1.6 miles from Mt. Vernon High School. The rivalry has reached epic proportions. Although Mt. Vernon beat New Rochelle by 25 on January 22nd and by 53 (87-34) on February 12th, the Knights come into the game knowing not to take anything for granted. The Knights last won a Class AA NY Public High School Athletic Association Championship in 2017. This season they regularly play three big men upfront, 6ft 9” Brandon Sinclair, 6ft 8” Demarley Taylor & 6ft 6” Manny Barkor. They’re led by Junior Captain Dylan Colon. A 6ft guard who had a statement making dunk against Green Tech. Their post season looks bright. This time of year it’s win or go home in Section 1 Class AA.
Four days after Mt. Vernon’s statement win against Green Tech I finished the week off back in Rhode Island at Bryant University. As I entered the Chace Athletic Center in Smithfield, RI on February 19 Mt. Vernon’s Greg Calixte was dunking on Fairleigh Dickinson. The Bryant Bulldogs have the leading scorer in the country, Peter Kiss. The Rutgers transfer from NY City came into the game averaging 24.5pts/game but it was Calixte’s thunderous dunk off an alley-oop pass 3 minutes in that set the tone. Kiss ended up with 30 points. His fifth game in a row with 30 or more points. He has scored 30 or more in eight games this season. The Bulldogs also feature Charles Pride. A 6ft 4” Junior guard from Syracuse, NY. He scored 24 points and got his 1,000 career point in the game. Bryant dominated throughout the second half. They led by 27 points with 6:06 to go and won 105-93. The win made their record 17-9 and 14-2 in the NEC Conference. The NEC playoffs begin on 3/2. March Madness is just around the corner.