By defeating the defending New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) champion Roadrunners of Ramapo College 74-62 at home on Saturday, the Lions got their fifth straight win and moved into a second-place tie in the conference.
Once again rallying behind senior forward Scott Findlay, the Lions built an early 12-point lead in the first half and controlled the tempo for the rest of the game. Findlay led all scorers with 23 points while senior forward Matt Diamond added a career-high 22 points, including three three-pointers.
The Roadrunners were able to chip away at the Lions’ lead in the second half and cut it to 54-47 after two free throws from sophomore guard Ahmad Mosby. Mosby then drew a charge on the Lions’ next possession, shifting the momentum and making the home fans uneasy.
But as winning teams do, the Lions responded with a defensive stop on the next possession and put the game away from the line. Both teams were in the penalty with six minutes to go. Referees could have charged Findlay and senior guard Jason Stallworth with loitering, as the duo made a living at the line with a combined 21 for 24 effort.
Ramapo put on the defensive pressure from the outset, applying a full-court press after tip-off, but the Lions were ready for the task. Stallworth consistently broke down frequent double teams and made plays that led to easy baskets, as he dished out five assists to go along with 12 points. “We knew from the start they were going to be right up in our face in man-to-man coverage,” Stallworth said. “We prepared enough for it that when they doubled us the guy that was open was able to flash to the middle.”
In addition, the Lions were fortunate to get Ramapo’s dominant big man, junior Rashawn Wilson, into early foul trouble, limiting him to just 16 in the game. Wilson, who leads the Roadrunners with over 18 points and eight rebounds per game, put up just seven points and five rebounds in limited action.
“We knew he was very prone to foul trouble,” Findlay said. “He lowers his shoulder on shots and he likes to block shots. We just wanted to get him up in the air and try to get him in foul trouble, which we did and that was the game plan.”
Senior forward Dan DeSerio had the honor of giving Wilson an early exit after drawing a charge with six minutes left in regulation. Wilson could only shake his head in disbelief after the referee charged him with his fifth personal foul. In his absence, the backboards might as well have had Findlay’s name on them because he owned the glass, grabbing 17 rebounds in the game.
In addition, Findlay commanded frequent double teams that allowed him to get his teammates involved, as he finished with five assists. Midway through the second half, he surpassed former teammate Derick Grant, becoming the College’s second all- time leading scorer.
“Its great on a personal level,” Findlay said of his accomplishment. “But it’s going to mean a lot more if we can continue playing like this and we can eventually win our ultimate goal of winning a championship.”
Earlier in the week, the Lions took care of business, defeating the Raptors of Rutgers University-Camden in a 77-59 road victory behind Findlay’s double-double.
Despite dropping its 15th straight game, the Raptors played tough, coming back from an early 15-5 deficit to cut the Lions’ lead to one point late in the first half. “They’re a dangerous team that no one in the league wants to play,” head coach John Castaldo said. “You’re supposed to win and you have to win that game.”
The Lions came out roaring the second half, going on a 12-3 run, which Stallworth led off with a three-pointer, seconds into the half. The opening run gave the Lions a 14-point advantage, which they never let slip below 10. “We made some shots and held them scoreless for a little bit to open the half,” Castaldo said. “That gave us some breathing room and we went from there.”
Freshman guard Wayne Smalls did what he could to try and get the Raptors their second victory of the season, putting up 20 points and four rebounds. The one-man show was not enough to compete with a Lions team whose balance and team effort have become the key to its success.
Findlay poured in 26 points and grabbed 14 rebounds, and Diamond added 21 to pace the Lions. Stallworth and DeSerio each had solid all-around games. Stallworth chipped in nine points, five rebounds and four assists while DeSerio collected eight rebounds, seven points and a game-high six assists.
The Lions will look to keep their winning streak alive as they return to action tonight to take on Rowan University for an 8 p.m. matchup in Glassboro. On Saturday they will host Rutgers University-Newark at 1 p.m.