The men’s basketball team concluded their season going 1-3 against a slate of State University of New York Athletic Conference (SUNYAC) opponents over the course of two weekends.
The first weekend consisted of the Hawks’ final two home games of the season, losses to SUNY Geneseo and the College at Brockport on Friday, Feb. 12 and Saturday, Feb. 13, respectively.
“Both games we battled back and tied it late in the second half, and for various reasons we just didn’t come out with a victory,” Hawks Head Coach Mike Rejniak said. “But the emergence of the young kids was pretty impressive. [Dylan] Balducci had a great weekend, and it was great to see his confidence get going.”
The Hawks fell to Geneseo 77-63 on Friday, Feb. 12. New Paltz stayed in the game throughout the first half, and a 3-pointer by fourth-year guard Keegan Donovan with 37 seconds remaining brought the Hawks to within four, as the halftime score favored Geneseo 36-32. In the second half, a 3-pointer by second-year guard Dylan Balducci at the 9:38 mark tied the score at 52-52. However, the Knights would then go on a 13-0 run which sealed the victory.
New Paltz received a big contribution from their bench that scored 35 points on the night. Balducci led the bench scoring with a team-high 18 points, while fourth-year co-captain R.J. Rosa was second with 16 points and led the Hawks in the assist category with five. Donovan, first-year guard Cory Garcia, and first-year guard and forward Nick Paquette also contributed off the bench with eight, six and three points, respectively.
The following day the Hawks were defeated 84-70 by the College at Brockport on their Senior Day, New Paltz’s last home game of the season.
“The seniors had a nice Senior Day overall, regarding their performance,” Rejniak said. “I just wish we could’ve closed it out on Saturday to give them one final home victory.”
Similar to the match against Geneseo, the Hawks trailed Brockport by just a few points, 43-36, entering the half. New Paltz then came back to tie the game 43-43 in the second half, this time by a dunk from third-year forward Brandon Guest at the 17:11 mark. Shortly after that, an 11-2 run by the Golden Eagles propelled them to victory.
In the final home game of their collegiate careers, Donovan, Rosa and fourth-year co-captain Alex Perlman posted point totals of 10, nine and eight, respectively. Donovan also contributed with three assists, a block and two steals, while Rosa led New Paltz in assists with six and also tallied two steals. Perlman tied for the team-lead with five rebounds and added three assists as well.
For the second-straight game, Balducci was the Hawks’ leading scorer with 14 points. Guest was right behind him with 12 points, and tied with Perlman for the team-lead in rebounds with five. The Hawks shot 40.7 percent (24-of-59) from the floor, and 44 percent (11-of-25) from 3-point range.
The team then traveled to Buffalo State on Friday, Feb. 19 and lost by a score of 94-79. Rosa led the Hawks’ offense with 23 points, and also added two blocks and two steals to his stat sheet. First-year guard and forward Joseph Ivin was second on the team in points with 12, a career-high for Ivin which he accumulated in just 11 minutes of playing time. First-year guard Matt Misser led New Paltz in the assist category with five.
Then on Saturday, Feb. 20, the Hawks concluded their season with a 74-72 victory over SUNY Fredonia on the road. The win brought the team’s final record to 5-19 overall and 4-14 in conference play.
“It’s been a pretty tough season in terms of wins,” Perlman said. “By the time we got to Fredonia, we already knew that the season was over. It’s not like we were playing for the last playoff spot or anything like that. We just huddled up before the game and talked about how this’ll be the last time we’ll all get to play college basketball together. Winning the last game I’ll ever play as a college athlete is great, but winning the last game I’ll ever play with those guys, that’s truly special.”
Rosa led the offense with 25 points in the final game of his collegiate career. Donovan tallied 17 points, six rebounds and two steals while Perlman scored nine points with four rebounds, four assists and a steal in their final collegiate games. Third-year forward Andrew Seniuk led New Paltz in rebounds with seven and blocks with two, scoring 11 points in the process.
Rosa, Perlman and Donovan will not return to the team next season. Perlman and Donovan have been at New Paltz since they were freshmen, while Rosa transferred from SUNY Sullivan and started playing at New Paltz during his sophomore year. Last season Rosa was named Second-Team All-SUNYAC.
“I’ve made some of my best friends for life playing basketball for New Paltz,” Perlman said. “I’ve said it to my teammates once or twice that I’m not going to remember specific plays or wins or losses when I look back at my college career. I’m going to remember the relationships that I developed with everyone. Starting with the seniors on the team three years ago back when I was a freshman, all the way down to the freshmen on my team this year, and everyone in between.”
Looking ahead to next season, Rejniak hopes to continue to see progress from his team. He was very pleased with the way his younger players performed this season and is excited for what they’ll bring to the program next year and years beyond that.
“I want to get better each day than the previous, I want us to further come together towards our common goal,” Rejniak said. “The good news with this year is that we had a boatload of young kids who got a ton of experience that will better serve us in the future and they know what to expect from the league. Some of the new kids coming in, the recruits and transfers, are only going to bolster our roster depth and talent. I look forward to seeing how they gel with our young kids.”