The 2014-2015 Berkeley College men's basketball team was a unit that shocked the USCAA by winning its first National title. The 2015-2016 Knights were a dominant, business-like, nearly-perfect squad, racing to a 24-1 record and capturing a second straight National crown. Last year's 2016-2017 team was a juggernaut, dismantling every opponent in its path and putting forth an incredible 29-0 record while capturing a third straight USCAA crown. Time will tell about the 2017-2018 version of the team, but it seems as though this group of 12 new student-athletes and a first-year Head Coach may have established an identity.
Call them the Cardiac Knights.
The Berkeley College men's basketball team (4-1) won for the fourth time in five games this season, defeating Florida National (8-4) by a score 86-85 thanks to a Thaddeus Hall three-point basket from the left corner with 9.9 seconds remaining in regulation. The game was the Knights' first at the Borough of Manhattan Community College during this 2017-2018 season. Following the victory, Head Coach Jonathan Pena gave his thoughts.
"It was a very hard-fought game between two teams that truly got after it today," Pena said. "I am very proud of the effort shown by our guys tonight. There were so many swings of emotion and momentum, and the contest had so many twists and turns, but our guys stuck with the gameplan, believed in one another, and pulled out a great victory. I'm going to tell these guys to get some good rest tonight because we have another tough game tomorrow against Central Penn."
Prior to the Knights' opening night win this year, only 11 of Berkeley's previous 40 games as a program had been decided by 11 points or less. The 2017-2018 Cardiac Knights have already played three games this season that have been decided by 11 points or less, and Berkeley College is 2-1 in those contests.
Berkeley College's Hall – in addition to hitting the game-winning shot – tied for the game-high in points, as he scored 17 to go along with seven rebounds in 23 minutes of action. Veteran Ricardo Ayuso contributed 13 points while knocking down a pair of three-point baskets. He also contributed three assists and snatched two rebounds. Nigel Hemingway logged 16 minutes in the second half after sitting out the first stanza, and he provided a big spark, scoring 11 points. Mohammed Camara posted a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds, and Johnnie Green chipped in with 10 points and four boards.
Despite the loss for the Conquistadors, Kenneth Santos tied for the game-high in points with 17, connecting on four three-point baskets, grabbing three rebounds, tallying two assists, and adding two steals. Terence Johnson dropped-in 15 minutes, pulled down six rebounds, and recorded three assists. Arthur Laguana netted 12 points, and Jessy Cantinol finished his evening with 11 points and a team-high nine rebounds.
Florida National held a seven-point lead – 33-26 – with 4:37 remaining in the opening half. An 11-0 run by the Knights over the ensuing 2:57 put the Knights ahead by a score of 37-33. That spurt featured a free throw by Camara, a converted layup by Hall, a three-point basket by Ayuso, a made basket by Camara, and a three-point play by Johnnie Green. Four straight Conquistador points tied the game at 37 apiece. The Knights would then outscore Florida National 6-3 for the remainder of the first half to take a 43-40 edge into the locker room at halftime.
In the second half, Berkeley College led by as many as eight points on two different occasions, but Florida National would battle back to tie the game at 74 apiece. From there, the game would feature six lead changes, with the final swing on the scoreboard coming via Hall's clutch three-point basket with 9.9 seconds to play. The Conquistadors would have one final shot to tie the game or take the lead. After racing the ball down the court following a timeout, Christopher Hall misfired on a three-point attempt, and Quantavis Hall would collect the rebound. He would then proceed to put up a shot while drawing a foul in the process with 1.3 seconds remaining on the clock.
Quantavis Hall would step up to the charity stripe, and after draining his first free throw, he misfired on the second attempt. Berkeley College's Camara would cradle the rebound as time expired, giving the Knights a thrilling victory.
Both teams shot very well from the floor, with Florida National converting on 50.8 percent of their attempts (31-61) compared to 46.9 percent for Berkeley (30-64). The Knights out-rebounded the Conquistadors by a slim margin, snatching 40 boards compared to 36 for the opposition. Berkeley has 20 turnovers, while Florida National committed 19 mistakes, and the Knights got 49 points from their bench, while the Conquistadors got 40 from theirs.
The Knights will return to action tomorrow afternoon, as Berkeley will take on Central Penn. The game will take place at the Borough of Manhattan Community College. Start-time is scheduled for 3:00pm.