The new-look Berkeley College men's basketball team began its 2018-2019 season on Friday evening, defeating the Red Storm of the University of Rio Grande by a score of 79-72. The game took place in Beckley, West Virginia, as part of the West Virginia Tech Classic. With the victory, the Knights extended their overall program winning streak to 26 contests, while the Red Storm slipped to 0-2 on the new season.
The four-time defending USCAA Division II and HVIAC champions raced out to an early 8-0 advantage just 2:40 into this game. Those eight points came courtesy of a two-point basket by Stevaun Latouche, a pair of converted free throws by veteran Ricardo Ayuso, a basket by Deylon Bovell, and a bucket by Anthony Hemingway. The Knights led by as many as 10 points in the opening session before taking a modest 34-26 lead into the locker room at halftime.
In the second stanza, Berkeley took its biggest lead of the evening with 8:43 remaining in the contest when Nigel Hemingway connected on a three-point basket to catapult the Knights to a commanding 62-46 edge. That is when the University of Rio Grande would make its push, though. The Red Storm put together a ferocious 23-7 run over the ensuing 5:38 to tie the game at 69 apiece.
The Knights, like they've done so many times during this incredible run that has spanned nearly a half a decade, rose to the occasion in a time of adversity. With 2:06 remaining, Nicholas Cora connected on a jumper to break the tie and give Berkeley a 71-69 lead. Following a turnover by the Red Storm's Hadith Tiggs, Ayuso added another pair to put the Knights ahead by two possessions at 73-69 with just under 1:50 left.
Later, with 16 seconds remaining and Berkeley College up 75-72, the University of Rio Grande's Earl Russell would misfire on a two-point attempt, as Cora snatched the defensive rebound and threw the ball ahead to Anthony Hemingway who would lay the ball in to put the Knights ahead 77-72. Berkeley would advance to win the contest by seven.
Following the contest, Ayuso was presented with a plaque for being selected as the Player of the Game. The veteran 6'5 guard netted a team-high 14 points while converting on three of his five attempts from the floor and seven of his eight opportunities from the charity stripe. Shamiek Sheppard was awarded a "Champions of Character" plaque. He finished his evening with nine points, five rebounds, and a pair of assists. The Hemingways finished with 10 points apiece, with Anthony finalizing his night with a team-high five assists while snatching three rebounds, and Nigel connecting on a pair of three-point baskets in the process of recording double digits.
For the Red Storm, Cameron Schreiter led the way for his team, posting a game-high 18 points while hitting a pair of triples and drilling four of his five shots from the free throw ling. He also added six rebounds and two assists. Trey Kelley drained four three-point baskets on his way to scoring 14 points for the Red Storm, and Earl Russell and Gunner Short finished their evenings with 11 and 10 points, respectively.
Berkeley College's shooting was exceptional all evening long, with the exception of trips to the free throw line. From the field, the Knights shot lights out, nailing 49.2 percent of their attempts (32-65), including a 55.6 percent conversion rate from downtown (5-9). The Knights only shot 43.5 percent from the charity stripe, however, misfiring on 13 of their 23 attempts. On the flip side, the University of Rio Grande had success from beyond-the-arc, draining 10 of their 20 shots from three-point range, but only hitting on 13 of their 39 shots from inside that line (33.3 percent). The Red Storm shot 16-24 (66.7 percent) at the line as well.
The University of Rio Grande held a slim 44-40 edge in the rebounding department, but Berkeley College won the turnover battle, committing 25 miscues compared to 27 for the opposition.
Berkeley College will return to action on Saturday afternoon, as the Knights will take on West Virginia Tech at 3:00pm.