Men’s basketball falls short of earning tournament berth

Freshman guard Nick DePersia attempts (and makes) an acrobatic reverse layup in an 85-65 loss to William Paterson on Wednesday night. Needing a win, Rowan was eliminated from NJAC tournament contention. -Staff Photographer/Anthony Medina

With teary eyes and heavy hearts, the Rowan men’s basketball team walked off the court for the final time of the season following a 85-65 defeat to William Paterson University (13-12, 8-10 NJAC) on Wednesday.

The Profs (9-16, 6-12 NJAC) needed a win and a Montclair State University loss to qualify for the NJAC tournament, but the same issues that plagued them all season caused them to lose their final two games. The brown and gold were outrebounded 49-36 and outshot 41.8 to 34.9 percent. 

Head coach Joe Cassidy said this game wasn’t just lost on the stat sheet.

“Watching that game, I don’t know how many times I turned to my assistant coaches and said, ‘Just look at their athleticism going after the ball’,” Cassidy said. “There was a couple times where our guy was there and their guy just jumped over him!”

The Pioneers’ top player, senior guard Terik Bridgeman (21 points, 17 rebounds), sat out the last time these two teams metan 86-83 overtime Rowan defeat on Jan. 13. Cassidy said that Bridgeman, as well as senior guard Bright Mensah (20 points, 7 rebounds), are “two of the top six players in the state.” He added that the Pioneers could “easily take” the whole conference.

Senior guard Kris O’Connor, who produced a team-high 21 points and seven rebounds, led the Profs in his final game for the brown and gold. It was an emotional game for O’Connor, and he said afterward that it wasn’t hard to figure out where the team went wrong.

“We felt good coming in, but obviously they wanted it more than us,” O’Connor said. “From the beginning we didn’t compete like we needed too, and we didn’t make shots like we needed too, so we lost.”

As for the other seniors in their farewell games, forward Chris Gross posted six points and six rebounds and center Dan Brogan finished with one rebound and a steal in seven minutes. Guard Darryl Robinson, who didn’t see much action this season, ignited the crowd at Esby with a late breakaway dunk to account for half of his four total points in the contest.

“My career here was great,” Gross said. “I learned a lot, played with a lot of great guys, made a lot of good friends and the coaches were great. I loved my four years here, it was the best time of my life.”

While it was a tough end to the careers of the graduating seniors, everyone in the Profs’ locker room agrees that their future is bright.

Freshmen guards Rob and Nick DePersia finished the year in the top five in scoring for the team and ranked first and second in assists, respectively. On Feb. 16, Nick was named the Corvias Eastern College Athletic Conference Men’s Basketball Metro Rookie of the Week.

Also returning to the team will be starting forward Shawn Wilson, as well as forwards Gary Carthan, Josh Borrelli and TJ Boothall of whom played valuable minutes for the Profs this season.

“The two DePersias made great strides this year, Borrelli played extremely well for us down the stretch and I hope [freshman center] Luke Leverick comes along for us next year as well,” Cassidy said. “But tonight showed us we also need to get bigger, and we need to get more athletic.”

“They’re going to be good,” O’Connor said. “Everyone’s coming back except for our big men and me, so as long as they’ve got some good recruits coming in I see a bright future for Rowan.”

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