Bengals bested by Brockport in SUNYAC quarterfinals


Dave DeLuca/The Record

Senior guard Chris Cartwright had 16 points and six assists in the Bengals’ 78-73 loss to Brockport.

Anthony Reyes, Associate Sports Editor

A back-and-forth battle between Buffalo State and Brockport in the SUNYAC quarterfinals featured 16 ties and 20 lead changes and ultimately ended in defeat for the Bengals by a score of 78-73.

Buffalo State started off strong, but the teams went into halftime tied at 37. The Bengals jumped out to a six-point lead early in the second half. They held the lead until there was 1:31 to go, at which point Brockport tied the game at 71.

Brockport took the lead on four consecutive free throws, and the Bengals weren’t able to rally for a comeback in the final minute.

In what turned out to be their final game in orange and black, seniors Chris Thompson, Chris Cartwright and Roderick Epps all made strong contributions. Cartwright led the Bengals with 16 points, six assists and three steals, while Thompson finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Epps added 13 points.

This past weekend the Bengals secured their spot in the SUNYAC playoffs with a split of their two games, a 73-72 win over New Paltz on Friday and an 81-77 loss to Oneonta on Saturday.

With the split, the Bengals finished the season tied for fourth place, but ended up as the No. 5 seed because of tiebreakers.

However, on Friday, that was still undecided.

There was 22 seconds left in the game, Buffalo State was trailing by a point, with a playoff berth on the line. The ball was inbounded and Cartwright looked to shoot, instead he pump faked. The ball was then passed to Glover. He also deferred, and sent a pass to Epps.

Epps took the jumper and sunk it with only seven seconds to go. Buffalo state was a defensive possession away from heading to the SUNYAC playoffs after a clutch bucket from Epps, and they held on for the win.

He (Cartwright) had the ball first, and he was initially about to take a shot,” Glover said,“ he pump faked, someone jumped out at him, and he swung it to me. I was going to shoot and then someone ran out at me and then they just left Epps wide open in the corner, so I just swung it to him.

“It was actually great ball movement, it was not a set play, it was just chemistry. They had to pick their poison and they left the wrong one open I guess.”

Epps saw the opportunity that was presented to him and he seized it.

“When Glover passed it to me, of course there was pressure,” Epps said. “Because he could have easily shot the ball, but he trusted me, and due to the fact that he trusted me, and passed me the ball to shoot the ball at the last second, I felt that I had no choice but to make the shot, it was just a regular shot to me.”

The Bengals started the game hot, gaining a 10-3 lead early on. But New Paltz began to make a comeback, and they would eventually take the lead, 38-37, with just two minutes until halftime. The Bengals would rally and tie it with two seconds left and headed into halftime tied at 40.

The Bengals got off to a slow start in the second half and New Paltz took a 55-48 lead seven minutes in. The teams would continue to trade buckets throughout the rest of the game. The Bengals took a two-point lead with just over a minute to go, but with 25 seconds left, Epps committed a costly turnover that led to New Paltz taking the lead, 72-71.

Epps then got his redemption by hitting a jump shot with seven seconds left to take the lead, 73-72, which secured the win and a SUNYAC playoff berth.

“The whole game, we knew that they needed to win,” Epps said. “So, since they needed to win, we knew that we had to come out even hungrier and we just had to stick to the game plan.”

Glover felt that the team got away from the game plan, which allowed New Paltz to make a comeback.

“I think after we got a big lead early, we kind of took our foot off the pedal a little bit,” Glover said. “We started the game pretty hot shooting the ball, if I recall, and then we kind of fell in love with a lot of jump shots, and they kind of worked their way back in, getting a couple defensive stops, getting a couple fast break buckets.”

Epps led the Bengals with 21 points and 10 rebounds, while sophomore guard Lovell Smith chipped in 18 points and seven rebounds. Senior forward Chris Thompson had 12 points, nine rebounds and three blocks.

It was a big win for the Bengals, but they knew their work wasn’t over with yet. They had another big game on Saturday against Oneonta. It was Oneonta’s senior night and they were also honoring a former player that passed away. Emotions ran high in the building.

Oneonta jumped out to an early lead and controlled the game early on until the Bengals went up 28-22 with just over seven minutes left in the half. Oneonta then went on a 19-5 run, which ultimately led to them taking a 45-38 lead into half.

Oneonta would go on a series of runs in the second half and would ultimately go up by 11 points about halfway through. The Bengals mounted a relentless comeback and tied the game at 77 with 50 seconds to go. Oneonta would then take a three-point lead with just 10 seconds to go, 80-77.

The stage was set once again and Epps had a chance at another last second shot, this time for the tie, but he ultimately missed it. Oneonta would add another free throw and win 81-77.

Head coach Fajri Ansari knew that Saturday’s game was going to be a tough one for the Bengals after the game they went through Friday.

“It’s a little relief that you make the playoffs,” Ansari said. “But now, trying to match that intensity within less than 24 hours, to go right back and play, it’s challenging to say the least, especially when you’re traveling. We just came up a little short, we had our opportunities, we didn’t shoot the ball well, there’s a lot of things we can point to, but they were driven.”

Both games ultimately came down to last second shots, which shows their ability to battle, something Glover feels they can be proud of.

“We just have a never say die attitude,” Glover said. “No matter win or lose, we’re always going to play until the last second and coach always preaches that, to be tough-minded no matter if you’re up or if you’re down, no matter if the refs are calling bad calls, or if the crowd is getting on you, just fight to the end and try to block everything else out.”

Epps once again led the Bengals with 22 points, Thomspon chipped in 14 points and nine rebounds, and Smith and Cartwright had 12 points of their own. Oneonta shot 53.5 percent from the field while the Bengals shot 40.3 percent. Oneonta also turned the ball over 24 times, but out-rebounded the Bengals, 46-34.