Release courtesy of Berkeley Athletics
The Berkeley College men's basketball team looks to be in prime form as it gets set to shoot for its fourth consecutive Hudson Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Conference title, as earlier this evening, the Knights won their 20th consecutive game, defeating the Warriors of Vaughn College by a score of 104-54. The game was played at the Hill Center on the campus of St. Joseph's College (Brooklyn). The victory improved Berkeley to a mark of 23-1, and 8-0 in HVIAC action. The Warriors slipped to 10-9 on the season, and 5-3 in league play. Following the victory, Head Coach Jonathan Pena spoke about his team's determination.
"I'm extremely proud of the focus our guys have had all season long," Pena said. "We've referenced all season the fact that this year's team featured many new student-athletes, but they've bought into the system and have really done a great job of mastering our system. The fact that we've now put together two winning streaks of 20 games or more over the past two-plus calendar years is truly remarkable. Most of these guys will get their first taste of the HVIAC Tournament this weekend – and my only advice to them would be to continue to play the way they've played all season, and not get rattled or distracted by the environment or the magnitude of the games. I want them to have fun this weekend, trust their teammates, and play with tenacity. And I know they will."
Incredibly, the Knights have now won 28 consecutive games at home, with their last loss in front of their home fans coming back on January 30, 2015, when Berkeley College dropped a 74-68 decision to the University of Valley Forge.
In the victory for Berkeley College, Ricardo Ayuso was superb for the Knights, as he scored a game-high 22 points while knocking down three treys and connecting on seven of his nine attempts from the charity stripe. He also added four assists and three rebounds, as well. Demetri Stewart added 19 points, four caroms and three steals, and it was Darius Ward finalizing his evening with 14 points and four boards. Michael Taylor and Teyvon Bussey contributed 11 and 10 points, respectively, and senior Johnnie Green snatched a game-high nine rebounds.
Despite the loss for Vaughn College, Kermarlie Mclean scored a team-high 18 points while drilling all eight of his attempts from the charity stripe. He also snatched four rebounds while tallying a team-high three steals. James Morel also added 10 points and a team-high seven rebounds as well.
Berkeley College erased any question of whether or not this game would be competitive in the opening eight minutes, as it took the Knights just 7:54 to grab a commanding 29-7 lead. Later – with the Knight comfortably in front by a score of 37-17, the Warriors did go on a 9-0 run to close to within 37-26 with 3:56 remaining in the half. Berkeley would score five of the session's final seven points to take a 42-28 edge into the locker room at halftime.
In the second half, the Knights spent the opening 2:58 of the stanza going on a 12-2 run to jump ahead by a score of 54-30. That aforementioned spurt included a converted jump shot by Taylor, a layup by Ward, a three-point basket by Ayuso, a trey by Taylor, and two consecutive free throws by Ward. From that point forward, Berkeley never let the Warriors close the gap to any slimmer than 23 points, as the Knights gradually built their lead, eventually going on to win by 50.
Berkeley shot just a shade under 47 percent (46.8), as the Knights connected on 37 of their 79 shots. On the flip side, Vaughn hit on just 18 of its 65 shots, a conversion rate equaling 27.7 percent. The Knights absolutely dominated the glass, out-rebounding Vaughn College 63-35, while also committing just 17 turnovers compared to 24 for the Warriors. The Knights collected 15 steals while Vaughn recorded nine, and Berkeley dished 19 assists to the opposition's six.
The Knights and Warriors will have two days off before meeting against on Saturday – with the next time serving as the semifinal round contest of the 2017-2018 Hudson Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournament. Berkeley will enter the playoffs as the No. 1 seed – as Vaughn will enter the fray as the No. 4 seed. All games of the tournament take place at the College of New Rochelle's Wellness Center. Should the Knights win Saturday, they would play in Sunday's 3:00pm championship contest against either New Rochelle or Albany College of Pharmacy.