By Pete Holehan
Assistant SID-SUNY Potsdam
For each challenge posed by Manhattanville College, the SUNY Potsdam men's basketball team had the answer as the Bears came up with big buckets down the stretch to pull out an exciting 68-65 nonconference victory back at the home confines of Jerry Welsh Gymnasium on Tuesday night.
Potsdam (2-7) had not played at home since Nov. 16 and was playing for the first time overall after a 20-day break over the holidays.
"Since we came back from break, we have been focusing on being mentally tough and fighting through adversity," said junior guard/forward Zac Adams (Potsdam, N.Y. / Potsdam).
"I think it showed tonight. They played physical so it felt like a SUNYAC game. It was just like getting ready for the conference games. It's really fun to be playing and seeing us come together after all that work that we have put into this."
Adams scored 10 of his 14 points in the second half including a driving score on a swoop to the hoop and two clutch free throws in the final three minutes to create some breathing room for the Bears. Adams added five rebounds, three assists and two blocks.
"[Zac] understands the concepts of the game," said Potsdam coach Sherry Dobbs. "He's just a coachable guy. He wants to be coached. One of the things that we have been looking to see from Zac is for him to be more assertive in trying to score. I was pleased to see that tonight."
But, it was largely a team effort for Potsdam as four Bears reached double digits in scoring and momentous baskets came from sophomore guard Joe Estramonte (Greenwich, N.Y. / Greenwich), who completed a four-point play to reclaim a 49-46 lead with 9:41 remaining and then nailed another key 3-pointer to get the Bears the lead for good at 62-59 with 3:30 left.
Bears' leading scorer Rob Duquette (Peru, N.Y. / Peru) returned to the lineup after a missing over a month to injury and responded with a 12-point, seven rebound effort.
Junior guard Tom Graf (Elbridge, N.Y. / Jordan-Elbridge) had 11 points—including 3-for-5 from 3-point range and snagged five rebounds and three assists. Freshman Josh Blagrove (Brooklyn, N.Y. / Bishop Ford) had 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting from the floor.
"We've been working on cutting down on our turnovers and becoming a better passing team," coach Dobbs said. "We were looking at getting 15 plus assists and 15 or fewer turnovers in the game. Tonight, we had 15 assists and 15 turnovers. That turnover total still needs to get down to 10 or 12, but we have to start incrementally bringing it down."
Potsdam shot 48 percent from the floor and took a 33-29 lead into halftime. Neither team was able to get more than an eight-point lead.
"I thought our first half defense was really good," Dobbs said. "They attacked our zone much better. We switched to man and our guys grinded out some possessions. They made a run and then we made a run back. I was proud that we were able to execute our plan and do what we wanted to do. We shared the ball well and we were really resilient. "
After trailing 16-12, Potsdam went on an 11-3 run sparked by the substitution of Graf who drove for a lay in and knocked down a 3-pointer from the wing to give the Bears a 23-19 advantage.
Graf later nailed another 3-pointer and senior forward Colin Peterson (Hilton, N.Y. / Hilton) followed with a 3-pointer of his own from the corner to give the Bears its largest lead of the game at 33-25.
The Valiants (5-7) held a 59-54 lead with 5:56 remaining after senior forward Jack Bramswig scored on a driving lay in. Bramswig shot 9-of-18 from the field for a game-high 22 points and six rebounds.
But the Bears outscored the Valiants 14-6 to seal the victory.
Potsdam will be back in action on Friday 8 p.m. against Brockport in a SUNYAC game.