CLINTON – The State University of New York at New Paltz men's basketball team (3-0) captured the Hamilton Tip-Off Tournament title Saturday evening at Scott Field House as a result of defeating host Hamilton College (1-1), 88-84, in the championship tilt.
Following the conclusion of the event, sophomore guard/forward Matt Devine (Manalapan, N.J.) and junior guard Shereef Taylor (Hyde Park, N.Y.) were named to the All-Tournament Team, while Taylor earned Most Outstanding Player honors. It marked the first time in six years that the Continentals did not win the tournament.
This title is the program's first of any kind since the 1998-99 season. That year, the Hawks won the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Upstate championship.
It has been a historic beginning of the season so far for the Hawks, as it marks the program's first 3-0 start since the 1992-93 campaign. No team in the history of the program has ever gone 4-0 out of the gates.
"The keys to the game were rebounding and making sure we had good possessions," head coach Dagan Nelson said. "We rebounded the ball well and took care of the glass. We made our free throws down the stretch. As a team, we defended really well and did a very, very good job at taking care of the basketball. We had just 14 turnovers all game, which was what we needed to do in order to win."
New Paltz was led Taylor, who paced the Hawks with a superb all-around performance. He finished with 23 points, seven rebounds and three assists and shot an efficient 11-of-15 from the field. Devine's strong play also continued, as he poured in 17 points while also shooting 7-of-11 from the floor. Junior guard Harris Wichard (Merrick, N.Y.) contributed 13 points and seven rebounds, while freshman forward Danny Nardiello (Hicksville, N.Y.) added 12 points, giving the team a much-needed contribution from its second unit. Junior guard Jermain Wallace (Spring Valley, N.Y.) played aggressive, scoring 10 points and attempting seven free throws.
For Hamilton, Pat Sullivan led the team with 22 points and added seven boards. Tom McInerney drained 17 points and grabbed a team-high nine rebounds, while Ryan Wright and Ephraim McDowell each reached double figures as well with 10 points apiece.
In a second half full of runs, New Paltz started the half leading 48-40. New Paltz continued to lead early in the second half until Hamilton made a run starting at 14:40. Hamilton would go on a 7-0 tear in almost under a minute, making the score 56-55 with a little under 14 minutes remaining.
Both teams continued to battle back and forth, and New Paltz fought to cling onto its small lead. With New Paltz leading 68-65 with a little more than seven minutes left, the Hawks would proceed to go on an 8-2 run, as a Devine layup pushed the score to 76-67 with 4:55 left. New Paltz would lead by as many as 11 with just under 2:30 remaining.
Hamilton would storm back, however, scoring eight unanswered points. The Continentals brought the score within three at 82-79 with 35 seconds left. Taylor and freshman guard Lamard Herron (Westbury, N.Y.) would hit clutch free throws to seal the outcome, ending the game with a final score of 88-84.
New Paltz and Hamilton battled early in the first half, playing a close game until around 8:51 when the blue and orange would go on a tear. With the score 22-19, the Hawks went on a 26-17 run that would give them a 48-36 advantage with 10 seconds remaining in the first half.
New Paltz looks to continue its win streak, as it plays its second home game of the season on Tuesday, Nov. 23, against a tough Keene State team. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. in the Hawk Center.