Shocking loss could be good for Captains

More news about: Christopher Newport
Aaron McFarland and the Captains are poised for another high-flying season.
CNU athletics file photo 

By Phil Soto-Ortiz

Returning the five top scorers from a Final Four team brings high expectations.

That certainly is the case for Christopher Newport. The Captains entered 2016-17 with the No. 2 spot in the rankings and as the favorite to win the tough Capital Athletic Conference.

That’s the good news. The bad news: everybody is gunning for them. The Captains got their come-uppance Saturday at the Hoopsville Classic where Marietta stifled CNU’s offense in a 74-50 victory.

CNU All-America guard Marcus Carter, who scored eight points in the loss, got an early reminder of what it is like when your opponent gives its all to beat you.

“I have no idea if they were gunning for us,” Carter said. “I just know they came in with a ton of energy. It was a tough game for us overall, but you have to give credit to Marietta. They wanted it more than us.”

Head coach John Krikorian agreed.

“Marietta absolutely wanted a piece of us,” Krikorian said. “It was intense. You could absolutely see it in their body language, and I could see it on their faces: they really wanted to beat us.”

The loss may not be a complete shock to CNU, and not just because Marietta was ranked 17th in Division III. The Captains, while returning all their top scorers, lost plenty of veteran leadership. Graduated seniors Hunter Wetherell, Ben Watkins and Connor Laframboise were four-year players at CNU, and three other players exhausted their eligibility.

“We replaced six guys who had a lot of experience with six freshmen,” Krikorian said. “None of those were our leading scorers, but that’s our depth. This is an entirely new team with its own identity and its own goals. It might take a little longer to find an identity.”

What Krikorian said will help speed that identity-finding process is the work ethic of the returning scoring leaders, including Carter, Aaron McFarland and power forward Tim Daly.

Those veterans, Krikorian said, have helped set a tone of hard work and selflessness. Daly, in particular, has become a mentor, especially to wide-bodied freshman Savonte Chappell.

“Tim’s really taken him under his wing,” Krikorian. “I think (Chappell) might be ready to play. (Daly) is just so solid, so consistent. He’s really helped the young low-post players.

“When your best players are also some of your hardest workers, that leads to a successful culture. Guys like Marcus Carter and Aarond McFarland; to see their work ethic in practice, doing the little things to win, the freshmen can’t help but figure out, this isn’t high school. This is college. You’ve got to do the things you’ve got to do to be successful.”

Krikorian singled out Carter as an example of that work ethic. Carter had signed a Letter of Intent to play Division I ball at Maryland-Eastern Shore. He opted instead for CNU. His success, however, is not that of someone coasting by on his talent.

“His attention to detail is at a really high level,” Krikorian said. “You can see it in practice. He’s not just out there getting a sweat. He’s really committed to improving, and you see it in his shooting, his ballhandling, his defense. He wants to be a great player. He cares about the team way more than any individual accolades, and it really leads the way for us.”

There is little question about CNU’s talent and, said Krikorian, no concern about hard work or humility. The loss to Marietta now provides something the Captains may have lacked: a sense of purpose.

“We competed and we executed,” Krikorian said. “But it’s just that little extra that Marietta had and we didn’t.

“I think we’ll look back on that game as a turning point, and something that hopefully spurs us on,” Krikorian said. “We might have needed to get smacked in the face like that. Last year’s team had that same experience of being smacked by 20 (actually 24) two years ago to Lynchburg.”

“That game (at Marietta) gave us a lesson that we can’t come out and win just based on our ranking,” Carter said. “It’s good that it happened early in the season, so we get that taste in our mouths.

“We know that we can be a really great team. We know what we’re capable of. If we execute and stay true to ourselves, we know we have talent.”

Garnet on top

Swarthmore has almost no history of winning on the court and was picked to finish seventh in the Centennial Conference last year. So, for a while, the Garnet’s hot start made for a nice story. By the time Swarthmore beat perennial power Dickinson to reach the CC championship game, however, the Garnet had become impossible to dismiss.

So much so, in fact, that Swarthmore earned the top spot in this year’s poll. There is no evidence thus far that such a ranking is undeserved. The Garnet won its first two games with a cast of characters similar to last season’s, with a notable addition: freshman Nate Shafer. The rookie forward has augmented a team already known for defense by blocking five shots in each of his first two games.

“He’s definitely a disruptive factor,” Garnet coach Landry Kosmalski said. “Obviously he’s done a good job as a guy with no college experience. We brought in three freshmen thinking they could come in and add value, and they have so far.”

Federici hits 1,000

Brandon Federici scored his 1,000th point in F&M’s season-opening win over Lancaster Bible, but that became an afterthought. The Diplomats, who were blown out by the upstart Chargers last November, appeared poised to turn the tables Friday as they led LBC by 15 in the first half. A 32-4 run by Lancaster Bible to start the second half then made it appear the Diplomats were on their way to anther lopsided loss to their less-heralded, cross-town rivals. F&M tied the game by scoring the last 14 points of regulation time, then held on in overtime.

Parker’s improvement

Mary Washington’s Kendall Parker, who averaged 10.3 points per game as a sophomore, scored 70 in three games last week to help the No. 22 Eagles get off to a 3-0 start. She earned the CAC’s player-of-the-week award in women’s basketball.

The week ahead

Sunday will be no day of rest for several of the top teams in the region. CNU will visit Dickinson, a Centennial Conference semifinalist last year. Swarthmore, the CC favorite, will visit Misericordia. The Cougars turned some heads with their win over Susquehanna, the favorite in the Landmark Conference. That should be a tough road test for the Garnet.

F&M will travel to Lebanon Valley College in a battle of teams picked second in their leagues. The Diplomats will get another taste of the tough competition that exists less than an hour’s drive from Lancaster.

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Phil Soto-Ortiz welcomes your ideas for men’s and women’s basketball news and features. Please contact him at

Phil Soto-Ortiz

Phil Soto-Ortiz has been a play-by-play sportscaster for basketball, football and lacrosse at Franklin & Marshall College since 2010, and has also called games at Division II St. Anselm College in New Hampshire and at high schools around Connecticut. He writes the annual Centennial College football preview for's Kickoff publication and has covered sports for the Harrisburg (Pa.) Patriot-News and several dailies and weeklies in Fairfield County, Connecticut. He graduated from Syracuse University, where he called the play-by-play of the women?s basketball team's games, including their last win over the UConn Huskies.
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