Skidmore Men’s Basketball Repeats as Liberty League Champions
For the fourth time in six years, and for a second straight year, the Skidmore Men’s Basketball team has won the Liberty League Championship. The team is slated to play Franklin & Marshall College (F&M) on March 4th at Tufts for the NCAA DIII Men’s Basketball Tournament.
The crowd was electric throughout the game this past Saturday as Skidmore took on St. Lawrence University (SLU). The student section was absolutely packed. SLU had hit a buzzer beating layup to end the first half, which had trimmed the Skidmore lead down to 9 points. At the start of the second half, SLU seemed like they couldn’t miss by hitting their first three shots, which had cut the Skidmore lead down to just one point. This sudden change in momentum must have ignited a spark in junior guard Royce Paris, who proceeded to put up 15 of Skidmore’s 36 second half points. He shot 4-5 FG and 7-8 FT in just fifteen minutes, while also grabbing four defensive rebounds.
Edvinas Rupkus also played a major part in staving off SLU, in which he went 8-8 from behind the charity stripe in the second half. With 26 seconds left in the second half, and the score tied, Rupkus drained two key free throws that gave Skidmore the lead. Royce Paris then put the game away with another two incredibly crucial free throws with only three seconds left. After both teams took timeouts, SLU launched a desperate three-pointer, which did not go in. A fair amount of the fans in the stands, myself included, charged onto the court to congratulate the players. Freshman guard Chase Ta exclaimed, “We’re going to the NCAA Tournament!” while giving high-fives to fans.
Their thrilling victory this past Saturday in the Liberty League championship game over SLU gave them an automatic bid into the tournament. The win marked the 18th of the season for the Thoroughbreds, and they go into the tournament riding a six-game winning steak. The league title was not the only award that Skidmore received. Edvinas Rupkus was named MVP of the Liberty League tournament, and he joined teammates Royce Paris and Erik Sanders on the All-Tournament team. In addition to being placed on both the All-League First Team and All-Rookie Team, Rupkus was also named Liberty League Rookie of the Year. Erik Sanders was named to the All-League Second Team. Coach Burke and Coach Crossman were crowned Liberty League Coaching Staff of the Year.
Now, the Thoroughbreds turn their attention to their next opponent, the Diplomats of F&M. F&M is ranked #21 in the latest D3hoops.com top-25, with an overall record of 22-5 (15-3 in conference). The Diplomats are also coming off of a 75-64 win over Swarthmore College in the Centennial Conference Championship this past weekend. The Diplomats are the highest ranked team Skidmore has played since defeating preseason #20 College of Wooster, which was only one spot behind F&M in the preseason rankings, on November 21. The two teams will face off this Friday at Tufts, where the winner will go on to face the winner of the Tufts-Southern Vermont game. Let’s hope our Thoroughbreds can keep the momentum going!
Rankings courtesy of D3hoops.com
Stats and awards provided by Skidmore College Basketball website
Image Courtesy of Skidmore College Athletic