POTSDAM - A full-court press by the opposition had the Clarkson University mens basketball team doing everything it could to hold on to its lead, and with free throws down the stretch the Golden Knights did just that, claiming a key 69-63 Liberty League victory over Skidmore College Tuesday night at Alumni Gymnasium.
The Golden Knights moved to 16-7 overall and 8-6 in the Liberty League, while Skidmore fell to 14-9 overall and 8-6 in conference games. The win for Clarkson creates a three-way tie with Skidmore and Rensselaer, and each of the teams controls its own destiny coming into the final weekend with the three teams vying for the final two playoff spots. St. Lawrence is still in the playoff mix as well, but the Saints need a lot of help from the teams above them to get in.
Skidmore and Clarkson traded baskets in the early going, but the Thoroughbreds were able to claim a five-point lead after Connor Merrill converted at the 10:31 mark (18-13). However, Charles McAllister (Olathe, KS) hit three free throws, Marques Charlton (Deer Park, NY) nailed a 3-pointer, and Felix Abongo (Beacon, NY) made a lay up to score eight points in less than a minute to give the Knights an advantage. Clarkson would hold on to the lead for the remainder of the first half, taking an eight-point advantage into the locker room after Charlton his a baseline jumper in the final seconds.
After five minutes in the second half, little had changed in the margin (seven points), but Skimdore went on an 8-0 run to take a one-point lead with just over 12 minutes to go and increased that edge to five points with less than nine minutes remaining.
Again, Clarkson responded with some quick scoring on an 8-0 run of their own to take a three-point lead at the 5:36 mark. Up by six late, Skidmore used a full-court press on inbound plays and forced some turnovers for quick shots on the offensive end, and the Thoroughbreds were able to cut the lead down to a basket. Marques Charlton swished a pair of free throws to create a two-possession game, however, and Clarkson held on for a six-point victory.
Clarkson got 28 points off the bench, including 17 in the first half, thanks to Felix Abongo scoring 14 points on 4-for-8 shooting from the field and a 5-for-6 performance from the free throw line. John Coleman (Potsdam, NY) made his last five attempts from the field after a slow start and finished with a game-high 18 points on 7-for-12 shooting. Charlton also tossed in 15 points to go along with five assists.
For Skidmore, Aldin Medunjanin had an outstanding game with 16 points, eight rebounds, and six assists, shooting 7-for-14 from the field while classmate Tanner Brooks contributed 14 points. Merrill also had nine points for the Thoroughbreds.
SUNY POTSDAM DENIED
The SUNY Potsdam mens basketball team (9-14, 5-11 SUNYAC) fell to SUNY Plattsburgh (16-7, 12-4 SUNYAC), 92-69 Tuesday night. Senior guard Mark Lake, Jr. (Harlem, N.Y.) led the Bears with 14 points. Senior guard Curtis Pierce (Brooklyn, N.Y.) and junior forward Rob Duquette (Peru, N.Y.) each notched 12 points.
Pierce put Potsdam on the board first with a big three-point basket to open the first half. Plattsburgh responded immediately after with a 6-0 run to claim the lead at the 18:57 mark.
Both teams exchanged baskets for the next two minutes until junior guard John Perez (Haverstraw, N.Y.) opened up another 6-0 spurt for the Cardinals. The Bears continued to battle and a pair of free throws by junior forward Colin Peterson (Hilton, N.Y.) with 10:33 remaining closed the gap to three points.
Potsdam maintained the pressure and a layup by Lake at the 4:22 mark capped off a 6-0 push and decreased the lead to two. However, Plattsburgh would respond with a 13-2 run in the remaining four minutes of the half to claim a 41-28 lead at the break.
Plattsburgh used the momentum to open up the final stanza of the contest.
The Cardinals would go on an 8-2 run sparked by sophomore forward Ezra Hodgson (Rindge, N.H.) one minute into the half. Potsdam slowly chipped away at the lead as Pierce added five straight points with 16:31 remaining. Yet, Plattsburgh immediately stopped the Bears charge with a 9-0 spurt capped off by a junior guard Chris Mannings (Baldwin, N.Y.) free throw at the 12:20 mark. Potsdam remained persistent as freshman guard Joe Estramonte (Greenwich, N.Y. ) hit a three pointer to halt the Cardinal offensive and ignite a 17-6 push with 6:03 remaining in the game. Plattsburgh would fend off the Bears with a 15-6 run of their own three minutes later to extend the lead to 20 points.
Sophomore guard Shamoy McIntosh (Floral Park, N.Y.) and Perez led the Cardinals with 14 points apiece. Sophomore guard Jordan Moody (Yorktown Heights, N.Y.) finished with 13 points. Junior forward Shavar Fields (Albany, N.Y.) and Manning each added 10 points, respectively.
The Bears return to the court on Friday, Feb. 15 when they host Oswego State for the first game of their final SUNYAC home weekend.