By Otto Gomez
The Lions, having lost three straight games entering winter break, looked to bounce back against Penn State-Harrisburg on New Year’s Eve in Pennsylvania. The three-week rest period between games seemed to give the team an extra boost, and the Lions came away victorious, 66-58, behind 20 points from senior guard Jayson Johnson.
In the following two weeks, the team returned home to face off against Fairleigh Dickinson-College at Florham, Ramapo College and New Jersey City University, winning each contest by an average of 10 points. During the stretch, Johnson averaged 14.6 points per game on 37 percent shooting. Fellow returning starter, junior forward Bobby Brackett, continued to rebound well, averaging 10 boards over the three games, including a 17 rebound effort against Ramapo College.
The Lions traveled to New York City to square off against the then-10-3 Baruch College Bearcats on Monday, Jan. 12. While the Lions played an overall solid game, the Bearcats were able to come back from a first half deficit to secure the victory, 65-63.
Brackett posted another double-double with 11 points and 14 rebounds, but it was not enough to stop the sharp shooting of the Bearcats in the second half. Since that game the team has played inconsistent basketball, beating Kean University away and Rutgers-Camden at home, both by double digits, and surrendering an 18 point defeat to the William Paterson University Bears. Senior forward Skyelar Ettin stepped up during those games to average a team high 16 points and more than one steal a game.
In the last game before classes start, the College played on Saturday, Jan. 24, at Montclair State University, where the Lions were able to pull away with a gritty 65-62 win. The victory put the team at a 6-5 record in NJAC play, good for fourth place tied with Rowan University.
Johnson continued to be the focal point of the Lions offense, scoring 21 points, including a pair of huge free throws at the end of the game. Brackett also had a great game, adding 20 points and 14 rebounds, giving the Lions a force inside when their outside shooting was weak throughout the game.
Perhaps the biggest difference makers were freshmen Erick Murdock, Jr. and Elias Bermudez, who have both started all but one game during the entire season. Murdock, Jr. added needed offense with 11 points, and Bermudez collected a huge offensive rebound and putback with less than two minutes left to permanently give the Lions the lead.
The Lions continue to fight for a playoff spot with their fifth consecutive conference game away against Richard Stockton College on Wednesday, Jan. 28, at 6 p.m.