Posted by Audrey Nelson
After an historic seven overtime win against Southern Vermont with its new coach Joe Burke, the Skidmore men's basketball team nears the end of the semester with a dramatic win against Castleton State College.
Junior Terron Victoria sent the three-pointer shot in the last 24 seconds of the game for a 74-71 win. The team improves to 5-2, while the Spartans fall to 2-4.
Victoria hit a three with 1:12 remaining to tie it at 69-69 and tied it up again at 71-71 before his winning three-pointer. Junior Melvis Langyintuo had a game-high 22 points, scoring 15 in the last nine minutes to aid the win.
The Thoroughbreds led 42-37 at the half, but the Spartans stayed alive until the last minute. After junior Dylan Malloy's three-pointer, with 13:38 remaining giving Skidmore a four point lead, Castleton made 11 unanswered points, taking the lead with less than 10 minutes remaining. With about three minutes on the clock, the teams traded the lead until the last shot.
"I am very proud of our resiliency", there were multiple times where we could have given in tonight and in the end we were able to get the job done," coach Burke said.
The team had hosted the Hilton Garden Inn Invitational over the weekend where the Thoroughbreds won 87-48 in their initial match against Bard College. This victory sent the men to the championship game against Utica where the team fell to the Pioneers 64-62.
"The Hilton tournament was a disappointment because we simply did not win, which is what we set out to do," senior and team captain Jeff Altimar said. "That being said, I thought we played pretty well in the tournament and definitely had our chances to win in the championship game."
Skidmore got the first basket of the game with a three from Gerard O'Shea '12 and maintained the lead until the half. Utica kept a close trail of two points through the first half but wasn't able to tie it up as Skidmore took a 36-31 into halftime.
The Pioneers grabbed their first lead of the game with 9:30 remaining. Skidmore took the lead right back with two free throws from O'Shea. Jeff Altimar '11 and Sakhile Sithole '13 added to that lead with 6:58 remaining.
Utica took the lead for the rest of the match with 2:52 remaining. O'Shea cut the lead back to a two-point difference on a three-pointer with 20 seconds remaining, but the Thoroughbreds couldn't make their last attempt shot to tie it up, as the Pioneers grabbed the 64-62 win.
"We were very inconsistent. We defended and executed our offense very well in stretches, but not throughout the entire game. Thus that is why we were not able to sustain our leads until the end of the game," Langyintuo said.
With a motto of "play tough, play together and play with confidence," the Thoroughbreds stand at 5-2 in hopes to end the season as Liberty League Champions and secure a place in the NCAA tournament.
"Being six games into our season now, I think the team has made great strides in getting to where we want to be. We have had both good and bad moments, but we are learning from all these experiences," Altimar said.
With a new coach leading the team, Langyintuo feels a greater bond with his team.
"I feel that we have greater cohesion, team spirit and more confidence as a group. Also, each player is a friend on and off the court; we are more of a family this year," he said.
"I think that this is attributable to the unity we fostered as a group prior to the official start of the season. We had intense fall team workout sessions that included weight lifting, pick-up games and 9 a.m. Saturday conditioning/training sessions."
But nothing could bond the team more than the marathon, seven-overtime victory at Southern College. On Nov. 23, the Thoroughbreds won 128-123 against Southern Vermont to set the NCAA record for the longest game in the Division III history. The game also tied for the longest game in any division, among numerous other records.
"The seven overtime game is one I will never forget and it really showed how resilient our team can be," Altimar said. "It makes me tired just thinking about it." He added that the team was very proud to see coverage of Skidmore on ESPN and other positive publicity.
Langyintuo echoed this sentiment. "It was exciting to see our school featured on national TV because we as athletes work as hard, if not harder than some of the teams that are routinely featured. Thus to accomplish such a feat as sustaining seven overtimes to achieve a victory is a testament to our determination, drive and unity as a program," he said. "Personally, I felt a calm sense of enjoyment because what we did was surreal."
In the middle of an exciting season, the men's basketball team, in addition to the women's basketball and ice hockey teams, has not only boosted its team spirit, but also its holiday spirit with a charity can drive event. The program, Skidmore Cares, has benefited local food banks and families in the Saratoga area for several years.
"It is a great way for our privileged college to give back to the community and help stock local food banks for the holiday," Altimar said. "We as college students have a lot to be thankful for and this is a small way to help others who may not have been as lucky."
Langyintuo added, "By helping the community through service initiates, we are not only gaining new supporters, but also contributing to the growth and prosperity of the society we live in."
The team will finish the semester at a home game against Trinity College on Dec. 10, and will return to the court on Jan. 5 against Norwich University.