The New Paltz men’s basketball team ended their season with a tough weekend, losing to Potsdam and Plattsburgh on Friday, Feb. 16 and Saturday, Feb. 17. Their final record stands at 7-18 overall and 4-14 in the State University of New York Athletic Conference.
Against Potsdam, the Hawks struggled offensively posting a 33.8 shooting percentage from the field and scored a season-low of 56 points. Fourth-year guard Dylan Balducci, however, had a good day shooting 4-of-6 from beyond the arc and 8-of-15 from the floor for a total of 20 points.
Fourth-year forward Brandon Guest scored 13 points and was one rebound shy of his fourth double-double of the season. Second-year guard Tristan Wissemann also chipped in 10 points and eight rebounds. The final score was 68-56.
The next day, the top-seeded Cardinals scored 58 first half points to propel them to their 102-69 victory over the Hawks. Guest scored 13 points, had two assists, two steals and was once again one rebound shy of a double-double. Wissemann tossed in 10 points and grabbed four rebounds while fourth-year forward James Saunders also scored 10 points and grabbed two rebounds.
The Hawks will lose Balducci, Saunders, Guest and fourth-year guard/forward Kevin Coyle with the closing of this year’s season. Hawks head coach Keith Kenney said that the seniors led on the court with their confidence and physicality. He added that they were very helpful in the transition in his first year as head coach.
“I think they’re all really smart basketball people, I really enjoyed talking with them about the game and they all gave good feedback and suggestions,” said Kenney. “Their legacy might be bridging this transition to new and better things and hopefully they feel like they might have been the start of it.”
Balducci played in 74 games in his four-year career with 21 games started and a total of 1,343 minutes. He is currently tied for second on the record board for most 3-pointers made in a single game right behind Hawks head coach Keith Kenney. He is also tied for sixth for most threes in a single season with 57 last year. He encourages his younger teammates to keep working hard and trust the coaching staff and said that he remembers away trips with his teammates fondly.
“I’m most proud of the fact that I’ve improved my game every year since I got here,” Balducci said. “I wanted to become more of an all-around player on both sides of the court, as opposed to the shooter I was in high school, and I believe I’ve achieved that.”
Saunders was with the Hawks for two years and played a total of 39 games and 433 minutes. In this time he grabbed 75 rebounds and scored 151 points. Saunders said his favorite memory in his career was beating Vassar at home this season.
Saunders encourages younger players to be a student of the game, learn from everyone around them and embrace the journey of college basketball. He is most proud of his ability to conduct himself as a good teammate and pass on his knowledge to improve his teammates in the face of adversity.
In Coyle’s single season as a Hawk he played nine games, starting eight of them, before sustaining a season-ending injury. He said that he is most proud of his team’s ability to never give up and trust the process and advises younger players not to take their time as a Hawk for granted.
Guest played in the 2015-2016 season, spent the next season recovering from surgery and returned to the Hawks for the 2017-2018 season. During these two seasons he started in all 43 games he appeared in for a total of 1093 minutes. He grabbed 254 rebounds, blocked 28 shots, stole the ball 26 times and scored 386 points for the Hawks.
“I’m just glad I didn’t give up,” he said. “I could’ve graduated last year, and called it quits after surgery; the struggle coming back to play my final season made me a better person. I can now walk away from the game with perspective.”
Guest is proud to have represented his team and his hometown in his time as a Hawk. His favorite memory was the Hawks’ home game against Geneseo this season because of the energy with it being Alumni Weekend and it was the team’s first conference win in two years and first over Geneseo since the 2014-2015 season. Guest advises younger players to never lose sight of their motivation and that “the only thing worse than death is a regret filled coffin.”
Although Kenney believes the team underachieved at their goal of making SUNYAC playoffs, they were only shy by a couple winnable games. He added that the focus of the off-season will be individual improvement in all areas of the game.
“I think everybody needs to get better and work harder,” he said. “[With the end of the season] they were challenged with getting better as an individual first, and that includes physically as well as skill work and us as a coaching staff. We’re all in this together.”