On the surface, it seemed like a quiet night in the city that never sleeps, the sound of students walking along the stone walkway in front of The Borough of Manhattan Community College the only excitement on Chambers Street. The men’s basketball team, known as the Panthers, sees tonight differently as they are ready to take on the Suffolk County Community College basketball team in a battle of David and Goliath on Jan 14.
As fans leisurely made their way into the gym, amassing to a crowd of thirty, the sound of rubber high-tops on the maple floor became the only noise in the quiet arena. After warm-ups and ubiquitous chatter from players and coaches, the game began.
It was a sloppy start on both ends, turnovers abundant. With the teams combining to commit double-digit turnovers in the first half, the players seemed flustered and frustrated. A fan with a rippled blue turtleneck and thick glasses seemed aggravated as well as she yelled, “Better passes guys, come on.” It was a shoddy first half performance by both teams.
As the first half dwindled down and the players began to find their rhythm, Suffolk’s point guard hit a couple of three-point shots to maintain their lead. Manhattan’s first year coach, Dan Nigro, was livid and red in the cheeks. “Other teams make their shots, that’s how the game works,” he yelled to his team after his sophomore point guard, Justin Alleyne, missed a crucial free throw with less than two minutes remaining in the half. After Josh Tuazon, a freshman shooting guard, missed a half court heave with one second remaining, the half ended in a score of 34 to 30, with Manhattan down.
As the players and coaches left for the locker rooms, the court once again became quiet. Like crickets in a forest, the fans chatted quietly to break the serene state of the arena. Hoping for more excitement, a fan yelled, “Come on, they gotta pick their heads up.”
The second half began in crisper fashion. In contrast to the first half, the second half was a dominant performance by Manhattan as they outscored Suffolk by double digits, while having four players in double figures. Sharrod Drummond, a freshman guard, and Tony Vails, a sophomore guard, finished with 22 points and 25 points respectively. The three-point shot helped Manhattan dominate the second half, with two crucial 3-pointers in the final four minutes from Tuazon, who finished with ten points. When asked how his team was able to dominate the second half, Tuazon said, “We stopped playing scared.”
While Suffolk had four players in double figures as well, they weren’t able to stop the three-point shot the entire half. Even more importantly, they couldn’t stop Vails, Manhattan’s star guard who is listed at six feet and two inches. Scoring almost all of his 25 points in the second half, Vails took Manhattan on his shoulders and got to the basket with ease. He was able to get to the foul line effortlessly throughout the second half and made Suffolk pay, hitting almost all his free throws. Drummond also pitched in, hitting five crucial three-point shots in the second half with the game bereft of a comfortable lead by Manhattan, despite offensive dominance.
Missed free throws on Suffolk’s end, lackadaisical fouls and lazy passes led to a rough half for Suffolk. While their point guard finished with 22 points and their power forward finished with 12 points and brought a great energy boost off the bench, it wasn’t enough in the end.
With the game all but over with 45 seconds remaining, Suffolk’s coach, who repeatedly screamed “Motion three!” to his point guard as he brought the ball up the court, prayed for a miracle. It was a tedious process, yet a positive experience for his players as they practiced clutch passing and shooting in the crucial last minute of the game.
It was a tale of two halves, as Manhattan struggled in the first half but dominated the second half on the way to an 87 to 76 win. With big performances from Vails and Drummond, along with crucial shots from Tuazon, Manhattan prevailed and went home happy. The Borough of Manhattan Community College Panthers were set to battle Hostos Community College at 7:30 pm on January 21st at home, in the calm arena at 199 Chambers Street.