By Otto Gomez
The Lions continued their late season push for a playoff spot in the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) with two games in the last week. The College first faced off against Ramapo College at home on Wednesday, Feb. 10, and then traveled to Wayne, N.J., to battle William Paterson University on Saturday, Feb. 13.
In their first game of the week, the Lions came out with a great moral victory after being defeated, 78-77, in an overtime thriller. Ramapo, who is 11-5 in NJAC play, has been a strong team all season. The Lions took a 77-76 lead with 26 seconds remaining in overtime when sophomore guard and captain Eric Murdock, Jr. made a layup. Ramapo sophomore Thomas Bonacum, who led all scorers with 30 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, was then fouled with eight seconds remaining. He converted both free throws to put the Roadrunners up by a point.
On the ensuing possession, junior guard and fellow captain Eric Klacik released the potential game-winner that appeared destined for the bottom of the net. But the ball rimmed out to end a thrilling conference showdown that was enjoyed by everyone in attendance.
Murdock led the Lions with 18 points and six assists, while Klacik finished with 15. The duo teamed up for seven three-point field goals in the game. Junior guard Nick Alaimo, who has been great all year off the bench, finished with 12 points, while freshman guard Kevin Bloodgood also reached double figures with 11 points in the game.
“I think I did a pretty good job with my role of coming off the bench this year,” Alaimo said. “Last year, I would get minutes here and there, but now that I’m a little older, I know my role better and am more comfortable. This allows me to play more consistently and with a lot of energy each game ready to contribute.”
Without a doubt, his contributions have led to the Lions’ success this year.
Still in pursuit of a playoff spot, the Lions squared off against William Paterson on Saturday afternoon. Unfortunately for the team, the Pioneers controlled every facet of the game and came away with an 83-47 home win.
While the first half was relatively close at 36-23, with William Paterson in the lead, a 47-24 second period put the Lions away, officially classifying the game as a blowout. The Pioneers were strong on both sides of the ball, starting the game 12-0 and forcing 18 turnovers throughout the day.
Even with the devastating loss, the Lions sit at fifth place in the NJAC, and, as of now, would make the playoffs since the top six teams advance. Fortunately for the team, they can keep it simple and advance to the playoffs by winning their last game of the season against Kean University on Wednesday, Feb. 17.
“We really control our own destiny, which is a great feeling,” Alaimo said. “ We just talk about going out and playing 40 minutes of TCNJ basketball. If we win our last two games, we don’t have to worry about other teams and ‘what if’ scenarios. Controlling our own destiny is a good feeling and we want to do everything possible to play as long as possible.”