by Noel Spillane, Contributor
On a cold November night in the Bronx, things got hot inside Draddy Gymnasium. An emotional and hard-fought battle between Fairleigh Dickinson University and Manhattan College saw the Jaspers leave in victory.
FDU came into this game bruised and battered coming off five straight losses to tough opponents. On top of this, they had to play the game without head coach Greg Herenda and leading scorer Brandon Rush due to unspecified reasons.
This meant that Pete Lappas, son of former Manhattan head coach and Jasper hall of famer Steve Lappas, would be taking the reins against Manhattan Tuesday night.
“As I started to walk out on the court I had to stop myself from getting too emotional,” said Lappas. “If the acting head coach starts crying that’s not good, so yeah that’s how much this means to me.”
Lappas’ side started the half with more intensity. You could tell they were desperate to get off to a good start. Manhattan did not quite share the same intensity but they made up for it in execution. Manhattan opened the half seeming to have a very calculated approach. They were communicating and they seemed to have a man in isolation every time they came down the court.
This started to fall apart when Manhattan started to give up careless fouls. This let FDU not only catch up to their lead but surpass it. The home side was clearly frustrated and the strong communication they began the game with began to disappear.
This frustration came to a head when Manhattan head coach Steve Masiello and Jose Perez got into a heated argument that led to Perez finding a seat on the bench.
“You know that’s just a family thing,” said Perez. “Some things went on, I had to regroup and come back on and just get a win.”
On the other side FDU started to click. They matched their intensity with a solid game plan and outstanding execution, nailing 45.5% of their attempts from 3. FDU took advantage of Manhattan’s miscommunication and executed their shots when they had the advantage in the paint. The overall play from the FDU side was more consistent, giving them the 41-35 advantage to end the first half.
“We were happy with how we played,” said Lappas. “We knew they would start the second half strong and try to get a lead quickly so we knew we’d have to compensate for that.”
The second half mirrored the start of the game. FDU was hitting threes and Manhattan was having communication problems. However, this began to turn around when Samir Stewart gave Manhattan a spark and began to hit threes of his own.
“I’m a born leader,” said Stewart. “It comes with my position, I try to get in my spots, my teammates find me and if I get the ball in my spots I’ll start knocking shots down.”
Stewart got into the thick of the action and his personality was shining all over the court. His teammate Jose Perez joined right along and changed the tone of the game.
“When it gets hot that’s how we communicate,” said Manhattan head coach Steve Masiello. “My guys intentions are to win and sometimes it can get hot but as long as I know their intentions it’s all good”
Perez was screaming at his teammates to get organized and all of his teammates seemed to match his energy. Manhattan began to bring the most intensity on the court and began to match it with execution, knocking down important field goals and shooting effectively from the line.
Stewart continued to produce and provided a key steal that seemed to change the entire momentum of the game. Shortly after Manhattan took the lead and although FDU was right on their backs and even took a brief lead themselves Manhattan secured the 78-73 win.