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Ramapo Improves to 3-0 with win over William Paterson in NJAC Opener

(Photo by Sunil Sunder Raj)

(Photo by Sunil Sunder Raj)

Fresh off winning the Rick Martin Holiday Inn Express Tournament in Westfield, Massachusetts, the Ramapo College Roadrunners men’s basketball team began 2016-17 New Jersey Athletic Conference play with a road game at William Paterson University on Tuesday night.

Beforehand, Head Coach Chuck McBreen stressed the importance of the game against William Paterson. “It’s a rivalry game and within 15 minutes of each other and anytime no matter where picked it’s going to be a really good game,” he said.

McBreen is in his 16th season which makes him the longest tenured coach in the NJAC.

“The road to success and NCAA tournament goes through the conference (NJAC) and no guarantee if you are first in the regular season you are going to win the conference tournament and get an automatic bid so you have to win as many games as possible to put yourself in position to get at large bid if you slip up,” McBreen explained. “Each game as we go on takes on more of a significant meaning.”

The Roadrunners and Pioneers match-up definitely lived up to the billing with the lead changing seven times and score tied six times in the first half. Ramapo was absolutely scalding from the field, shooting 60 percent. They were led by senior forward Sultan Aminu scoring 14 of his game 24 points while pulling down nine rebounds. However, Pioneers senior guard Zach Frick (25 points) erupted, draining four of his six treys to keep the game close.

Ramapo closed out the half on a 12-3 run to take a 49-40 lead at halftime.

In the second half, Ramapo pushed the lead to double digits in large part to Sultan’s ability to score in the paint and points off turnovers due to an aggressive pressing defense. The Roadrunners scored 31 points off 25 turnovers committed by the Pioneers.

A thunderous dunk from junior forward Christopher Moseley made it 76-62 with 8:40 remaining. The Pioneers stormed back with an 8-0 run and tempers flared as William Paterson’s Turrell McClendon and Ramapo junior forward Nick Stanek briefly scuffled leading to technical fouls assessed against each player.

Ramapo (3-0, 1-0, NJAC) managed to weather the storm, extending the lead back to 10 points due to key free throw shooting and transition buckets to pull away late for the 92-76 victory.

The Roadrunners depth was on full display with junior forward Thomas Bonacum contributing 18 points and seven rebounds, while guards Josh Ford and Cory Soanes each chipped in with 15 points apiece.

“Coach told us to calm down, just control the game and when we have a lead to sustain it,” said Aminu. “We went to the low post action and went to work. It was our press that really helped us out and everybody off the bench did their job tonight and stepped up. It’s a big win because we had to make a statement and show people we are the real deal and made of. Everybody in this league comes to play and if you don’t show up to play we could have easily lost this game tonight.”

“A great win for us anytime you come up here to a very hard place and they played hard as hell and we couldn’t put them away,” McBreen said. “We kept getting the lead and they came back and finally we made one last run at the end of the game to separate us. Sultan played terrible up in Massachusetts this past weekend and we expect so much from him and tonight is what we expected all year and he showed up and if he does it we will be a contender.”

“We expect it from Tom being a first team all-conference player and he played sick with a stomach virus and just gutted it out,” he continued. “We leaned on Zahir and he came up big with 15 points tonight and huge for us. In the second half our defense was a little bit better and Frick has burned me since I got here and hell of a shooter and player. We held them to 40 percent in the second half and first half they shot 50.”

“We feel pretty good where we are at this point and fortunate to pull it out at the end and now sitting at 3-0,” said McBreen. “Christopher, Thomas and Josh are all back for their third year with us and we got a nucleus that has been starting for years now. Tommy is our captain and we’re expecting guys to perform night in and out.”

“This season we have a team that should be well-balanced,” continued Breen. “It’s early with the first conference game and next week we have Montclair and Stockton and get ready. It’s one game at a time and we have our work cut out and have to get healthy.”

After the Thanksgiving break, Ramapo returns to action next Monday in the home opener at the Bradley Center against Medgar Evers College with tip-off at 7:30 p.m.

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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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