A season of new beginnings for the New Paltz Men’s Basketball team ended on Feb. 21, after a 73-62 loss in the quarterfinal match to SUNYAC rival SUNY Oswego.
The Hawks earned a playoff berth as the No. 8 seed with a 9-17 record after a 65-68 loss to SUNY Plattsburgh on Feb. 14. The Hawks were slated to face the No. 1 seed Oswego after losing to them twice already during the season.
The 2011-12 season marked Head Coach Mike Rejniak’s first season as a Hawk. In his first playoff appearance as coach, Rejniak said a slow start and a small roster held the team back in the tournament opener.
“We had a nine-man roster this season and it’s always tough when you have a small bench,” Rejniak said. “I think we played very well in the playoffs against Oswego, but we just needed one guy.”
The Hawks started the game down 15-4, and after a time-out, the team went on a 15-5 run, giving the Hawks momentum against conference undefeated Oswego.
“We were right back in the game after that,” Rejniak said. “I think we played fairly even with them the rest of the way. It was probably the best we’ve played all year. I couldn’t fault them for their effort or the way that they played.”
The loss to Oswego marked the last game for fourth-year player Jamal Lis-Simmons and fourth-year Captains Jermain Wallace and Harris Wichard, who completed his career as a Hawk with 1,512 points. The mark makes him fifth in all-time program history.
While the team had their best game all season, Wallace said the loss still hurts as the last game for him in his college basketball career.
“I’m a competitor,” Wallace said. “I’m not into moral victories, but I really think we fought hard, especially after what we’ve been through as a team this year. We all definitely put ourselves on the line.”
Third-year Captain Matt Devine had 22 points in the Feb. 21 match against Oswego and was named to the All-SUNYAC Second-Team. Wichard was named to the All-SUNYAC Third Team.
Devine said while Oswego was the No. 1 seed and undefeated in the conference, this enabled the Hawks to go in with “nothing to lose.”
“All the pressure was on them and not on us,” Devine said.
With the end of the season, Devine said focus will now shift toward keeping in shape and trying to get recruits to come in for the 2012-13 season.
“We just want to get them [recruits] up here and meet with us again,” Devine said. “We want them to know we’re good guys to play with and let them know that next year is a big expectation year for us.”
Right now, Rejniak said the team has six recruits for next season and he is hoping to hold a 15-man roster for winter 2012-13.
“I’m very excited for next year,” Rejniak said. “Yes, we have some big losses, but the growth and leadership shown this year will carry over for years to come. Right now we have six kids coming in for next year’s class and we have guys like Sharif Taylor who will be coming back and I’m hoping will be able to make up for some of the losses we are having now.”
With the 2011-12 season at its close, Rejniak and Devine are looking forward to the new season, and they have great expectations for next October when the full roster will meet for the first time as a group.
Wallace said the excitement for next season makes his departure from Hawks basketball “bittersweet.”
“I’ve been playing basketball my whole life,” Wallace said. “To realize that it’s finally over in the college aspect is really hard to deal with, but I’m very happy for Coach and that they’ll have guys coming in to fill that roster and produce a good team.”