NEWBURGH – A true total team effort fueled the Mount Saint Mary College men’s basketball team (21-5) to a 95-75 victory over Farmingdale State College (18-9) in the Skyline Conference Championship semifinals Thursday evening at the Kaplan Center. The Knights will make their first conference finals appearance since the 2004-05 season, and will take on top-seeded Purchase College on Saturday, March 1, at 7 p.m. at Purchase.
In the winning effort on Thursday, senior forward Joe Henain blocked three shots, setting a new program single-season record with 69.
Henain led a group of five Knights that scored in double-digits in Thursday’s semifinal victory. He scored a career-high 26 points and grabbed a game-high nine rebounds in addition to his three blocks. Senior guard Donte Howell followed with 18 points, adding four boards and four assists. Senior guard Anthony Cipriano came off the bench to score 14 points and dish out four assists. Senior forward Chris Pisciotta and freshman forward Alex Smith matched with 10 points.
The Knights got off to an incredibly quick start, racing out to a 20-2 lead. The Rams offense began to turn it up, but the Knights kept pace with their opponents, taking a 44-25 lead into the break. Henain scored 13 of his 26 points in the opening half and pulled down seven of his nine rebounds.
Farmingdale swung the momentum in its favor out of the break, opening the half with a 12-2 run to cut the deficit to nine points. Pisciotta hit a pair of jumpers to slow down the Rams and push the Knight lead back to 12, but Farmingdale’s Justin Bailey drained a three to cut it right back to nine. A flurry of fouls slowed the game down significantly, as the Rams found themselves in very early foul trouble.
The Knights hit the bonus with more than 12 minutes to play, allowing them to slow down the game and the Rams’ momentum. A pair of Henain free throws put the Knights back up by 12, but the next Knight possession is the one that turned the tables. Henain forced a tough layup into the basket, drawing a foul in the process for a three-point play to put the Knights back up by 15.
The Rams slowly managed to cut the Knight lead down to 10 points. Sophomore forward Jason Oder drained a big three, but Bailey followed with one of his own to keep the lead at 10. The Knights turned up the heat again, capping off a 7-1 run with another three-point play by Henain to go up by 16. The Knights took advantage when the Rams were forced to foul in the final minutes, running out to a 20-point lead capped off by another three by Oder.
The Rams were led by Jonathan Annan, who scored 21 points and passed out five assists. Donald Lawes, the nation’s leading shot blocker, matched Henain with three blocks and added 14 points before fouling out early in the second half. Bailey followed with 12 points.
The Knights shot 56.1 percent (32-of-57) on the night, including eight three-pointers. They held the Rams to 37.3 percent (25-of-67) shooting from the field. The home team held a 38-31 edge in rebounding. The Knight bench provided a crucial 34 points, compared to just 14 for the Rams’ reserves.
The Knights advance to the Skyline Conference Championship finals for the first time with head coach Ryan Kadlubowski at the helm