The Hawks soared past Vassar College on Nov. 21 last week with a final score of 79-72 in their home opener for the first win of their season. The men held off the Brewers in a crucial final 30 seconds to secure the seven point victory.
With less than a minute to go, Vassar brought the ball up court where the Hawks defense fought to maintain a six-point lead. New Paltz played tight man-to-man, which allowed fourth-year forward Brandon Guest to tip a pass and first-year guard Keith Seaman followed up with a block. Second-year forward Nick Arthur collected the loose ball, forcing a Brewers foul and ultimately closed out scoring for the game.
“It’s always great to win a basketball game,” said Hawks head coach Keith Kenney. “It was good to win the first home game and build off that, but it’s just one win and we need to continue pushing hard.”
The score was tied three times in the first half with nine lead changes. Second-year guard Tristan Wissemann notched six of the Hawks’ first 11 points to start. Fourth-year guard Dylan Balducci also shot 5-for-8 from the field for the first 20 minutes, chipping in 13 points.
The Brewers, however, went 10-for-15 from the free-throw line, helping them secure a 37-34 lead at halftime. Wissemann would finish the contest with a total of 14 points, four rebounds, two assists and a block.
“We are resilient as a team,” Wisseman said. “We won’t give up until the final buzzer sounds, and even during the first weekend, we played it close until the end.”
There were only two lead changes in the second half before the Hawks began to steadily build up their lead. Wissemann notched two free throws earlier to pull the Hawks ahead by one with 13:09 remaining in the contest. As New Paltz continued to gain momentum, fourth-year forward and Guest scrambled for a loose ball and Saunders found him in the paint who slammed it home, electrifying the Hawk Center.
In the second half, Balducci added 12 more points to his game-high total of 25. He also grabbed two rebounds for the Hawks.
“It felt amazing to finally get a win,” he said. “It’s been a long time coming, and we know that this is just the beginning for us.”
The Hawks opened their season at the Scotty Wood Tournament in Allentown, Pennsylvania. New Paltz dropped both decisions, 98-88 on Friday, Nov. 17 and 71-59 the following day against Muhlenberg College and Rutgers-Camden, respectively.
Kenney said the Hawks fell down a little on defense on Friday and were lacking offensively on Saturday. However, both he and the team remained optimistic on the ability to build on their opening weekend as they pushed toward their home opener.
“Even though we did not get the results we wanted this past weekend, I thought we played well overall,” Balducci said. “We made many correctable mistakes and just need to get accustomed to playing with one another.”
Balducci led the charge on Friday with a total of 30 points. Fourth-year forward Kevin Coyle also stuffed the stat sheet with nine points, seven assists, four rebounds and a steal. Arthur contributed a near double-double with 10 points and seven rebounds. Guest and third-year guard Nick Paquette also chipped in nine points and 13 points, respectively.
The following day Paquette scored 21 points, grabbed nine rebounds and blocked two shots against the Raptors. Guest collected 11 points, grabbed two rebounds and had a one assist, while Coyle had eight points, four rebounds, two assists and a steal. Third-year guard Cory Garcia tossed in two points, four assists and grabbed five boards.
“Dylan Balducci definitely stood out to me. He was able to come in off the bench and provide instant offense,” Wisseman said. “Nick Paquette also shot lights out from three and helped the team a lot.”
The Hawks will begin State University of New York Athletic Conference (SUNYAC) play at home this weekend against SUNY Brockport and Geneseo, looking to bounce back from a 104-66 loss on Tuesday, Nov. 28 at undefeated Hamilton College.
“We’re preparing the same way we prepare for every opponent,” Balducci said. “We know Brockport and Geneseo are two good teams, but we know we are too. If we follow the game plan and execute down the stretch, I like our chances.”
The Hawks will take on the Golden Eagles on Friday, Dec. 1 at 7:30 p.m. and the Knights the following day at 3 p.m. in the Hawk Center.