On Saturday Mar. 3, the Manhattan College men’s basketball team fell to their rival Iona Gaels in the quarterfinals of the MAAC Tournament by a score of 72-60, ending the Jaspers’ season.
After the team’s second first-game elimination in as many years, head coach Steve Masiello was beside himself while having to say goodbye to a senior class he adored.
“These four seniors…are as classy as it gets. I’m going to miss them, terribly,” Masiello said.
The matchup was a tough one for the Jaspers, who have not topped the Gaels since the two teams met in the MAAC Championship back in 2015. Tim Cluess’ Gaels led for 36:49 of the game’s 40 minutes and were able to constantly deter the Jaspers’ rallies throughout the second half.
Iona was led by graduate transfer guard Zach Lewis, who poured in 23 points and grabbed nine rebounds in the game. Junior guard Schadrac Casimir, who has been a Manhattan killer on the court during his career, added 18 points and was perfect from the line in their win on Saturday.
Sophomore forward Pauly Paulicap led the way for the Jaspers with 16 points and 12 rebounds in his fifth double-double of the season. Senior forward Zane Waterman added 14 points and six rebounds, but was forced to leave the game midway through the second half due to an ankle injury.
For Paulicap, his revelation of a season ends with disappointment in the MAAC Tournament, but a MAAC Defensive Player of the Year Award and a model of success to follow in the graduating seniors.
“I necessarily don’t look at an ‘L’ as a loss, I learn from everything we’ve been through this season,” Paulicap said. “So, I’m just going to learn from it, translate it, and turn it into a positive next season.”
Now Masiello and the Jaspers say goodbye to the remainder of Manhattan’s championship nucleus. With Rich Williams, Calvin Crawford, and Waterman graduating this spring, the 2018-2019 season will be Masiello’s first without a member of a Manhattan championship team since winning his first MAAC title in 2014.
Not only do the Jaspers say goodbye to their championship pedigree; but Waterman, Williams, Crawford, and Zavier Turner led the team in all major offensive categories.
Over the weekend, Williams and Waterman were also acknowledged with second and third team All-MAAC selections respectively.
After the game, Masiello, Waterman and Williams shared their somber goodbyes.
“What they meant, to me, what they meant to Manhattan College, you can’t put into words,” Masiello said.
“It’s been an unbelievable time. If I could go back, I’d do it all again,” Williams added, while choking up.
“It’s just like a family atmosphere. I’m going to miss my family,” Waterman concluded.
Masiello and the Jaspers now enter the offseason with questions, and opportunity. Thomas Capuano and Paulicap will return as the core members of Manhattan’s team, but new players will be asked to fill the shoes of a do-it-all senior class.
Of the notable players with opportunities in front of them next season, freshman Nehemiah Mack and Ebube Ebube figure to see more time at their respective positions and will carry more weight on the offensive side of the ball. Rising senior Samson Usilo, whose career has been plagued with injury but has always been a favorite of Masiello, may see the opportunity he’s been waiting for his entire career.
Either way, Masiello and his recruiting team will be hard at work this spring attempting to re-create the championship culture that Williams, Waterman, Crawford and Turner worked hard to instill here at Manhattan.