By Ted Waddell
LOCH SHELDRAKE November 23, 2004 The Generals coach predicted it was going to be a war, and it was.
At the start of Thursday nights hotly contested game between the host Sullivan County Community College (SCCC) Generals and the Panthers of Passaic (N.J.) County Community College, the visitors proved they werent a bunch of cats to be skinned without a fight.
The Generals held off the determined Panthers to record an 83-80 victory.
Although SCCC (3-0) opened a very early lead, it was briefly lived as the Panthers were up by five points about five minutes into the opening half.
As the hoopsters battled for advantage, the Generals managed to take a whisker-thin 41-39 lead at halftime.
With 12:56 remaining in the game, Kelvin Nelson put the Generals up 59-52 with a two-point field goal, and a few ticks of the game clock later, Kevin Johnson gave the home team a nine-point lead by sinking two shots from the free throw line on a technical foul by Passaic CC (5-2).
With 5:53 left in the game, SCCC got tagged on a T, but Passaics Danny Trapp couldnt connect on either free throw.
Moments later, the Panthers Willie Long came up short at the free throw line, allowing the Generals to hold onto a 10-point lead at 73-63.
In the closing minutes, Passaic figured the only way to close that margin was to foul at every opportunity in order to save precious seconds on the clock. But that last ditch strategy backfired as SCCC Coach Chris DePew countered by pulling his big men out of the game and replacing them with a cadre of guards.
As the game progressed, Passaics free throw percentage went downhill. The Panthers missed a total of 16 shots at the foul line in the second half, giving life to the old adage nothing is for free.
With the score 83-77 in favor of the Generals, the Passaics Anthony Virgil hit a fadeaway three-point shot with two seconds remaining on the game clock, to give Sullivan a razor-thin victory over a team that came to play.
Going into the game, the Generals, who were ranked seventh in the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division III preseason mens basketball poll, were coming off a couple of lopsided victories. The 13th-ranked Panthers had just knocked off Gloucester (which was ranked third in the preseason NJCAA poll), Cayuga (ranked seventh) and 11th-ranked Bergen.
Generals reaching double digits in the scorebook were: Kevin Johnson (23 points), Jamal Raphael (14), Nelson (12) and Everage Richardson (11).
For Passaic, Quado Meyers led the way with 22 points. Anthony Virgil netted 16, Danny Trapp added 11 and Quasheed Simmons had 10.
In addition to his game-high 23-points, which included four successful three-point shots, Kevin Johnson was credited with five defensive rebounds and four steals.
Raphael was king of the boards with four offensive rebounds and five defensive rebounds.
Stats from the free throw line: SCCC was a coach-pleasing 26-for-32 (81 percent). However, Passaic CC was a coach-frowning 7-of-23 (30 percent).
I thought it was a great game between two great teams, said Passaic CC Coach Rich Corsetto, who is in his ninth year of guiding the Panthers.
We missed too many foul shots, he added.
DePew, who is in his third year as the head coach of the Generals, said he was glad the contest was over.
It was an absolute war, he said. I knew coming in we would have our hands full, and we did.
DePew described the 2004-2005 Generals as a bunch of young kids with a couple of returning starters.
For the game against the Panthers, DePew fielded a new lineup of starters The Five Freshmen. That lineup featured Kevin Johnson at the point, Greg Johnson at shooting guard, Antoine Williams at small forward, Jamal Raphael at power forward and Peter Jean-Baptiste at center.
These are the guys who were getting it done for me, working hard in practice and giving me what I need, DePew said.
He noted that the Generals needed a close game in the wake of their first two games of the season, which were contests the Generals won by very lopsided margins.
It was a great win for our program, and a huge confidence builder, he said.
DePew sung the praises of point guard Kevin Johnson.
He was absolutely outstanding tonight, said DePew. Hes our general
its like having another coach on the floor.
Kevin Johnson is a 20-year-old freshman who graduated from St. Raymond High School in the Bronx.
I dont want to take no credit, it was a team effort, he said.
Johnson said he ramped up his game in the second half after getting a bit of constructive criticism from his teammates during the intermission.
It was my teammates who got me hyped up at halftime, he said. They told me I wasnt playing up to my abilities
it stung, but it got me focused.
Notes: In recent seasons, security during games Down in the Bunker at Paul Gerry Fieldhouse had folks looking around for help when things got a bit testy between rivals as youthful blood boiled to the surface.
However, under the direction of Dave Siegerman, a retired New York City homicide detective who is SCCCs new head of security, there was a visible uniformed presence during Thursday nights game between the Generals and Panthers. It was a presence that kept things under control, while still letting the SCCC students have a boisterous time while cheering on their Generals.
The Generals next home game is scheduled for Tuesday, November 30. At 7 p.m. that evening, SCCC will host Dutchess Community College.