POTSDAM - SUNY Potsdam got the new year off to a positive start with a 68-65 non-league win over Manhattanville while Clarkson University opened the Liberty League season by dropping a 70-66 decision to Skidmore in Division III mens basketball action from both sides of the Raquette River on Tuesday.
For each challenge posed by Manhattanville College, the SUNY Potsdam mens 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.). 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. Its 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. Hes 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.), 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.) 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.) had 11 pointsincluding 3-5 from 3-point range and snagged five rebounds and three assists. Freshman Josh Blagrove (Brooklyn, N.Y.) had 10 points on 4-7 shooting from the floor.
Weve 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 as 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.) 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 9-18 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.
Trailing by as many as 13 points in the second half, the Clarkson men came all the way back to take the lead late, but Skidmore was able to hold the Golden Knights scoreless down the stretch to preserve the win in the Liberty League conference opener for both teams.
The Golden Knights fell to 6-4 overall and 0-1 in the Liberty League, while Skidmore moved to 7-3 and 1-0.
Junior John Coleman (Potsdam, NY) made a pair of shots in the first three minutes to give Clarkson an early advantage (7-4), but Skidmore went on a 10-0 run in the next two minutes and didnt trail again for the remainder of the half. The Knights rallied back to tie the score (14-14) on a 3-pointer from Dylan Hodownes (Honeoye Falls, NY), but again Skidmore was able to use a 12-2 run that was capped off by a Tanner Brooks 3-pointer at 6:11, and the Thoroughbreds held a solid advantage for the rest of the half, heading into the locker room with a 28-22 edge.
In the second half, Skidmore didnt slow up and looked poised to run away with the game as Clarkson couldnt muster much offense outside of Colemans intermediate jump shots. Following a make by Connor Merrill, Skidmore enjoyed a 13-point edge (44-31) with less than six minutes expired from the clock in the second half. However, a few shots found their way in for the Golden Knights, and a Hodownes 3-pointer at the 6:52 mark saw Clarkson climb back to within three (55-52). A Felix Abongo (Beacon, NY) 3-point play on a lay up and a free throw tied the game for the first time since midway in the first half at 60-60, and the Knights gained the lead on a Marques Charlton (Deer Park, NY) 3-pointer, their first lead since early in the opening period. The lead would be shortlived, though, as Skidmore regained a three-point edge on baskets at the other end. Another Charlton 3-pointer tied the score, but the Thoroughbreds defense stifled Clarkson after that make, holding the Knights 0-for-6 in the final 1:50 of the contest. Perun Kovacevic gave Skidmore the lead for good on a lay up in the middle of the paint, and Aldin Medunjanin sunk a pair of free throws with 19 seconds to go make it a two-possession game.
John Coleman scored a game-high 24 points, shooting 11-14 from the floor. Charlton recovered from a scoreless first half to net 11 points and Hodownes also tossed in 11. Abongo came through with nine points and a team-best six rebounds.
Four players finished in double figures for Skidmore, led by Aldin Medunjanins 17 points on 5-9 shooting. Connor Merrill had an impressive all-around game with 15 points, 10 reobunds, and six blocks, and Tanner Brooks added in 15 points. Perun Kovacevic also chipped in 12 points and seven rebounds.
The St. Lawrence University mens basketball team was slated to play a non-league game at Elmira College on Tuesday but the matchup was postponed to January 17.