By Charles Lippolis, Asst. Editor
On Wednesday night, Manhattan’s Men’s Basketball team took St. Francis Brooklyn to overtime in their 80-79 win.
It was the first home opener since Nov. 12, 2011, when Head Coach Steve Masiello recorded his first collegiate win. For the Jaspers though, a win all the same, and the first one of the year. After the game, Masiello was happy to get the season started right.
“One thing I’m the proudest about is that they just showed great toughness, great mental toughness. I thought they fought through a lot of things and did a nice job,” Masiello said.
The first half of the contest was a near even matchup, with both teams trading buckets and playing tough, physical defense. The Terriers did most of their work from beyond the arc, shooting 50 percent from deep, while Manhattan converted 13 of their 16 opportunities from the charity stripe.
At the intermission, Manhattan had no one to blame but themselves for their 38-34 deficit. St. Francis forced 13 Jasper turnovers, 10 of which were stolen; and created 15 points off of those extra possessions. In the locker room, Masiello had a simple message for his guys.
“Just relax, get back to who we are.” Masiello said.
And in the second half they did just that. Senior forward Rich Williams led the charge for the Jaspers all night, but he stepped his game up in the second half. Williams finished with 21 points and six rebounds, posting most of both totals in the second half and overtime. After the game, Williams was excited to see the hard work of the team culminate on the floor.
“It just felt good to experience it, you know, finally just compete against someone else,” Williams said.
Another spark plug in Manhattan’s comeback victory was the second half return of senior forward Calvin Crawford. After recording two fouls early on, Crawford was forced to the bench, and Manhattan was without one of its key playmakers.
The second half was a different story. Crawford refreshed and energized the Jaspers, as he finished with 11 points and five rebounds. Crawford was also active in keeping the crowd entertained. Specifically, at the 13-minute mark, when he was a part of a small scuffle that produced four technical fouls and got the “Sixth Borough” student section fired up.
“He changes us… but he did some really good things and I thought he helped calm us at times,” Masiello said.
What stood out from the home opener is the senior leadership that Masiello’s team exhibited. In 2014, Masiello was able to lean on seniors like George Beamon and Rhamel Brown because they were reliable and made the players around them better. In 2015, he did the same thing with Emmy Andujar and Ashton Pankey.
On Wednesday, the four lead scorers for Manhattan were all seniors (Williams, Turner, Crawford, Waterman), and on a night were Crawford was bound to the bench early, senior forward Zane Waterman delivered nine points and 10 rebounds in a team leading 41 minutes.
The story remains to be written for the Jaspers in 2017, but if history shows us anything about the way Masiello’s system works, productive play from the senior leaders shows is a good sign for Jaspers Nation moving forward.