The men’s basketball team began their six-game home stand Friday night and will remain in the Hawk Center for the rest of the regular season. The Hawks (1-19, 0-14 SUNYAC) began the weekend nearly picking up their first State University of New York Athletic Conference (SUNYAC) win and fell to Buffalo State on Saturday, Feb. 4 by a score of 78-69.
On Friday, Feb. 3, SUNY Fredonia bested the Hawks by a 65-61 decision. The game came down to the wire with the Hawks trailing 63-61 with 19 seconds left on the clock. The Hawks attacked on the offensive end trying to win or force the game into overtime, but the Blue Devils defense was able to defend the net.
Hawks head coach Mike Rejniak said that he was happy with the team’s performance defensively, noting they held Buffalo State and Fredonia to 10 and 12 points below their averages, respectively.
Three players recorded double digits against the Blue Devils. Hawks third-year guard Dylan Balducci led the team with 15 points, followed by third-year forward James Saunders and fourth-year co-captain Andrew Seniuk with 14 and 13 points, respectively.
Seniuk also recorded eight boards, four assists and two blocks in a game-high 38 minutes.
“I believe the team can build on our effort and grit we displayed this past weekend,” Balducci said. “On Saturday against Buffalo State we battled back from a 23 point hole to cut it to single digits, we shot a great percentage from the floor and if we can continue to defend at a high level, we can definitely surprise some teams.”
The Hawks started off strong and built a lead as high as 11 points in the first half of action, but Fredonia managed to keep up with them. Still, the Hawks went into the locker room leading 26-25 at the half.
The Blue Devils kicked off scoring in the second half, but the Hawks kept pace and exchanged baskets for eight minutes into the half. The Hawks started to pull ahead around the 12 minute mark with a 3-pointer by Seniuk, assisted by second-year guard Cory Garcia and a steal and subsequent layup by Garcia, assisted by Balducci, bringing the score to 48-39 in their favor.
The Blue Devils caught up quickly and the scoring remained in a five point or less window for the remainder of the contest. Notable performances from the visitor’s side came from third-year forward Ian Helps who scored a game-high 17 points, third-year guard/forward Dante’ Williams who recorded a double-double with 16 points and 12 rebounds and fourth-year guard Richard De La Cruz who scored 12 points.
Seniuk had a perfect shooting performance on Saturday, but it was not enough to propel the Hawks to a victory against Buffalo State.
Seniuk also finished with a team-high 18 points, followed by Balducci with 14 points and first-year forward/center Nick Arthur with 11 points. Garcia also tossed in eight points, nine assists and five rebounds.
“The growth of Cory Garcia in particular has been absolutely phenomenal for our team and he’s only a sophomore,” Rejniak said. “I think having him continue to grow and solidify his place along with the young kids around him, Nick Arthur the freshman, Matt English, Bryce Lane is coming around, they’re growing, they’re growing and getting better.”
The teams traded points until they were tied at 22 midway through the first half, but the Bengals went on a 14-3 run and put the Hawks in an 11-point deficit. The Hawks then went on a small 7-2 run with a 3-pointer by second-year guard Nick Paquette just before the buzzer and finished the half trailing 38-32.
The Hawks started the second half strong and caught up by bringing the score to 38-36, but the Bengals countered with a 26-5 run to put the Hawks in a 64-41 hole. New Paltz trailed by double digits for the majority of the rest of the game. With 2:15 remaining, Seniuk tossed in a layup assisted by Garcia to bring the score within eight points, but the Hawks were unable to pull any closer and the Bengals coasted away with the victory.
Despite their record, Rejniak and his team remain hungry for their first SUNYAC win and will continue to work until the final buzzer sounds.
“To end our season on a high note, going 3-1 to finish the season is not insurmountable,” Garcia said. “It feels good playing at home and we are finally used to it, we are very due for a win.”
The Hawks play at home again this weekend hosting The College at Brockport and SUNY Geneseo Friday and Saturday before wrapping up the season against SUNY Plattsburgh and SUNY Potsdam in two weeks in the Hawk Center.