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Ramapo College advances to NJAC Tournament semifinals

Finishing the NJAC regular season schedule on a positive note by defeating the top team in conference in New Jersey City University on Wednesday night, the Ramapo College Roadrunners began their quest for a third consecutive conference tournament championship welcoming in 5th seed William Paterson to the Bradley Center on Saturday afternoon.

After falling behind 10-4 early on, Ramapo went on an 8-2 run to tie the game up with 14 minutes left. The Roadrunners were sparked by the play of Rob McWilliams burying a couple of trifecta’s while tallying 13 points by the eight minute stretch making it 26-20. Twice Ramapo managed to extend the advantage to five only to see the Pioneers tie it up at 42-42 with a minute remaining.

McWilliams ended up pouring in 21 of his 23 points while Rob Lewis scored 11 points including knocking down one of two free throws as the Roadrunners led at halftime 43-42. William Paterson relied on the combo of Dominic Mignone and Sean Smith tallying 12 points apiece.

Head Coach Chuck McBreen on the first half, “In this game we talked about getting stops and rebounds. When we came into the locker room we were very disappointed about the defense. We let up 42 points and way too many. In the first half they shot 56 percent.”

Rob McWilliams on the first half, “Come playoffs anyone can win and I know I needed to have big games for us and helping anyway. First half was my half and Rob Lewis carried us in the second half. That is the beauty of this team because we have so many weapons. We really balance it out and distribute.”

Down 52-51 with 16 minutes left, the Roadrunners went on a 9-0 run. Held scoreless at intermission, Jason Battle caught fire scoring  all of his 11 points. Already having knocked down 17 of 20 free throws in the first half, Ramapo continued to sizzle from the charity stripe canning 14 of 16. With Pioneers forwards Myles McLeod  and Nasir Fields fouling out of the game, Rob Lewis seized control of the game in the paint and from the perimeter as the lead grew to 68-57.

Even with the lead trimmed to 70-63 with three minutes to go, the Roadrunners (18-8) pulled away for good hitting their free throws down the stretch for the 80-65 victory including Lewis punctuating the win with the first three-pointer of his career as the team advanced to the semifinal round where they will take on New Jersey City University (19-6, 14-4 NJAC) on Tuesday night at 7:00 p.m.

Lewis notched his 14th double-double of the season with 27 points and 16 rebounds including 12 of 16 from the free throw line. Ramapo dominated the backboards 46-31, with 36 of the defensive rebounds. Mignone led William Paterson (16-10) with 25 points while Smith added 16 points.

McBreen on the win, “We set a goal before the game to keep them below 70 and we thought we threw that out the window and able to hold them to 23 in the second half. In the second half held them to 26 percent shooting and only 41 for the game. Our defense got it going and they missed some shots and took some ill advised three’s. They were 4 for 10 in the first half and in the second half took 14 and only made one.”

“They started to foul, we made our free throws and pretty much iced the game. We had some idle trips where we could have separated a little more and made it more difficult than we had to but at the end took care of the ball. First half we had 10 turnovers and in the second half only five. At halftime Jason (Battle) had nothing and I said to him if you don’t play we are not going to win this game. He got it going in the second half and made a couple of buckets and made his free throws.”

Rob Lewis on the team’s performance, “We just came out fired up, wanted to have fun and take care of business. It’s a great feeling guys can come in and step up and do their role in a big time.”

McWilliams on the defensive effort in the second half, “We really locked in the second half and I focused on my match-up with Sean Smith. We tried to contain him and Mignone and make other guys beat us. Defense has been our friend all year, pride ourselves on it and playing at a high level right now and the right time.”

McBreen on the upcoming game at NJCU on Tuesday night, “If we play with the effort we did the other night and battle them on the backboards we’re going to have a chance to win and if we don’t bring the effort they are going to smack us like last time down there. It’s about making the effort in the glass and defensive rebounding.”

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Sunil Sunder Raj

Since July of 2014 Sunil Sunder Raj has been with In The Zone. Sunil has experience covering minor league baseball, high school and college sports. A beat writer for the Rockland Boulders for six years, Ramapo College men’s basketball for four years, NJIT men’s basketball and Seton Hall women’s basketball. Now focusing on feature articles about athletes, coaches and sports media professionals. A graduate of Ramapo College of New Jersey with a bachelor of arts degree in journalism.
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