Sunday, March 06, 2011

How Sweet it Is!

I am sure the parties lasted late into the night at Cabrini College last night. But the Cavaliers deserve a party after their improbable 91-84 win to advance to the Division III Sweet 16. I'm also sure that the bus ride back to Westchester County felt like it took all night for the Purchase Panthers. But that's how basketball is at this time of the year. Someone gets to celebrate at center court and someone else rides home in the darkness on a deadly silent bus.

I've been at center court and on the bus. Center court is fun, but you learn a lot about yourself on that bus.

Last year, Cabrini took the long bus ride home after a brutal first round loss to Randolph-Macon in the NCAA tournament. Head coach Marcus Kahn and his young Cavaliers used that loss as a object lesson and jumping off point for the 2010-2011 campaign. The goal was simple: win an NCAA game.

Friday night, the Cavs did that, rallying from a 9 point deficit with 13 minutes left to defeat a wounded New Jersey City University squad 85-76.

Last night, faced with a senior-laden SUNY-Purchase team also looking for NCAA respect, the Cavs looked lost in the first half. It would have been easy for them to hang their heads and say "Hey we accomplished our goal." Down 13 on their home floor, the Cavs emerged from the locker room at halftime to the boisterous cheers of their friends and family.

And they fought back with a ferocity I have never seen from any Cabrini team. Ever. They fought back against the critics who said they had played a weak schedule. They fought back against the naysayers who claimed they didn't deserve to host. They fought back against the folks who STILL ask "Isn't that a girls' school?"

They turned up the defense, fought through screens and made their shots. Senior Dom Farrello and sophomore Cory Lemons helped the Cavs correct every error from the first half and roared back to stun Jeff Charney's Panthers 91-84.

For the second night in a row, the smaller, younger Cabrini team pressured their opponent into mistakes and turnovers, feeding on the crowd, building momentum and running the Panthers to ground. It was thrilling to watch and obviously ecstatic for the young men that did it.

It was great to see so many old and new friends of the Cavalier basketball program watch the team return to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2002. It won't be easy next weekend as the Cavs will face the #5 team in the nation, the College of Wooster Scots on the Scots' home floor.

I'd like to thank Gordon Mann and Pat Coleman for giving me the opportunity to broadcast all three games at Cabrini this weekend. Gordon's a pro and the women's bracket will do well to have him calling their games.  Joe Guinta and Brian Beacham did a great job getting us everything we could have asked for. SID Bobby Ciafardini and Coach Jeff Charney were very great help from Purchase, Marc Brown and SID Ira Thor gave me great information about the NJCU team and Hartwick coach Todd McGuiness will certainly do a lot with that program.

Thanks also to Head Coach Marcus Kahn for rallying the troops, pushing all the right buttons and restoring a proud program. It's a hard job that takes time away from his great family, doesn't pay nearly enough and he does it well. I appreciate the access he gave us and the extraordinary candor he has displayed.

Finally thanks to the young men who have put on the uniform all though the season, giving up holidays with their families and night with their girlfriends to represent Cavalier Basketball in 2010-2011.

It's time for a new goal. Good luck in Ohio.

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