On Sunday night, the Manhattan College men’s basketball team fought through two overtime periods to secure a 92-86 victory over Quinnipiac in a Senior Day thriller.
In poetic fashion, the night was spearheaded by the efforts of Manhattan basketball’s graduating class. Zavier Turner led all scorers with 31 points and eight assists, Rich Williams added 23 points and 11 rebounds, Zane Waterman notched 14 points with seven boards and Calvin Crawford recorded six points and six rebounds in the victory.
After the game, head coach Steve Masiello relished in the journey that this senior class took to become what they are today.
“I think it’s very fitting these four seniors…go out that way because it’s a culmination of their careers,” Masiello said. “A culmination of their careers, of adversity, being under-recruited, just everything.”
The game was a grind for both teams from the start. At the 12-minute mark of the first half, both teams had combined for just six field goals. A combination of firm defense and sloppy offense brought the game into halftime with Manhattan leading 26-23.
“Between the high emotion, being your last game, the ceremony and everything, we had to kind of get the jitters out,” Crawford said.
Turner had no points after 20 minutes of play.
The intermission gave both teams time to think and formulate a plan for the second half. Turner took the time to reflect on people around him, specifically, the seniors and head coach that had been there throughout his time as a Jasper.
“I thought about everyone in this room right here,” Turner said, as he looked to Masiello, Waterman, Williams and Crawford. “We put in a lot of work in this gym.”
Manhattan came out of the second half strong, but so did Quinnipiac, and when the Jasper’s big guns stepped up, so did the Bobcat’s. After scoring no first-half points as well, Quinnipiac guard Cameron Young poured in 22 second-half points, and guard Rich Kelly added 14 points of his own.
In addition to those in uniform who turned it on for Masiello and the Jaspers in the second half, the 6th Borough student section also added energy to motivate the team as they surged to a double-overtime win.
“To end in that way…was phenomenal,” Williams said after the game. “And to have it here with the great fans was icing on the cake.”
The Jaspers were not only lifted by the standout performances of Turner and Williams, but also by the result of outstanding team basketball after the halftime intercession.
In the second half and overtime combined, Manhattan created 11 assists while forfeiting just two turnovers; with no turnovers in both of the overtime periods.
Unselfish basketball kept Manhattan within striking distance at all times, and with their back against the wall in the first OT period, Masiello put the ball in William’s hands to make sure the Jaspers lived to fight for another five minutes. The fifth-year senior took care of the rest.
“It was about being in the position before,” Williams said. “Coach [Masiello] drew up a great play, and that’s what happened.”
The Bobcats were not prepared to roll over either, and with 3:08 left in the second overtime period, Jacob Rigoni hit from deep twice to put the Bobcats up by four. In yet another tough situation, Masiello was confident that his team had been in this spot before, and would find a way to fight through it yet again.
“I firmly believe this game was won in November, December… you can’t make the shots they make without having already gone through tough times,” Masiello said.
Turner, who had displayed similar second-half heroics in the team’s win against Monmouth on February 10, was comfortable under the pressure of double-OT; and with 1:44 left in the final overtime period, drilled a three that would put Manhattan up 88-86, a lead they would not relinquish.
“I felt like I was letting [Waterman, Williams, Masiello, Crawford] down in the first half,” Turner said. “I put my thoughts together, and I went ‘you know what, put everything on the line right here.’”
Before tip-off on Sunday, Masiello spoke about his senior class to a full crowd at Draddy Gymnasium. He labeled “Selfless” and “Sacrifice” as the two common denominators between his four seniors that have made them such a special group, and those were qualities that showed through in their win over Quinnipiac.
Now, the Jaspers are slated for their third matchup with rival Iona in their opening game of the MAAC tournament on Saturday, March 3. The Gaels are the back-to-back conference champs, and while the team is mindful of Iona’s presence as a perennial force in the tournament, their goals remain fixated on one thing.
“The mindset is to win, that’s it,” Waterman said.
While Sunday may have been the Jasper’s cleanest offensive game of the season, Masiello is still focused on maintaining the team’s defensive philosophy. With the same blueprint that brought back-to-back MAAC titles to Riverdale in 2014 and 2015, the Jaspers head to Albany determined to win their next game and play their best basketball.