Mar 14, 2007 Eagle Newspapers Uncategorized
Cardinals couldn’t soar like the Eagles
By Nicole M. Russo
Heads down, the St. John Fisher College Cardinals shuffled off the court following a 105-91 loss to the SUNY Brockport Golden Eagles in the NCAA Division III championship Sweet Sixteen. As the Golden Eagles celebrated, a group of children decked out in the Cardinals’ maroon and gold colors rose to their feet in the upper deck above the Fisher bench, and attempted to rouse the dejected home crowd into one last chant.
“Thank you, seniors ”
After Brockport (26-5) turned a four-point deficit at halftime into a 14-point victory, ending the Cardinals'(25-6) season and hopes of a second straight trip to the Elite Eight, Fisher head coach Rob Kornaker urged the celebration of players’ accomplishments–particularly the careers of seniors Dan McSweeney (Marcellus/Marcellus), Dan Mueller (Waterloo/Waterloo), and Adrian Fenyn (Newark/Newark).
“Of course I’m disappointed and I’m upset and I’m angry,” he said, “but we’ve got three seniors, and the most important thing is celebrating the fact that these guys won 100 games here; what other group has done that in their career? We had some rollercoaster rides, but in the end, we did stay together and pull together and we were successful. That’s the way I wanna look at it.”
Fenyn struggled to explain how he felt at the end of his collegiate career.
“Words can’t explain how I’m feeling right now. I just didn’t want it to end like that,” he said.
The Cardinals and the Golden Eagles faced off at 8 p.m. on Friday night in Fisher’s Manning & Napier Varsity Gym. It was the third matchup this season for the cross-town rivals; the two teams split a pair of decisions during the regular season. A standing-room-only crowd watched as neither team was able to gain a clear advantage during the first half. Fisher held onto a 43-39 lead at halftime. After the break, Brockport took the lead for good on a three-pointer from sophomore Mychal Wilkes (Newark/Newark) to make the score 53-51 with 15:29 to play.
“We had a hard time keeping them in front of us,” Kornaker said. “It was tough.”
Fisher was led in scoring by Fenyn, who tallied 18 points. Freshman guard/forward Chris Baltz (Vestal/Vestal) added 15 points for the Cardinals, while Mueller tallied 14. Muller’s scoring included four three-point field goals, which pushed his total for the season to 93, enough to set a new single-season record for Fisher.
Freshman guard Matt Newman (Campbell-Savona/Campbell) was also in double digits for Fisher with 11 points. Fisher’s other two starters, McSweeney and junior forward Justin Beigel (Colerain/Cincinnati, Ohio) and tallied five and eight points, respectively. Junior forward/center Isaiah Smalt (Campbell-Savona/Savona) put up nine points.
Baltz, Newman and Fenyn each grabbed six rebounds.
Junior guard Sherod Harris (Gates-Chili/Rochester) set the tone for the Golden Eagles by scoring a career-high 32 points, including 26 in the second half. Mueller said that Harris posed a major challenge to Fisher’s defense.
“He went by everyone,” Mueller said. “If we tried to guard him, he went by, and we knew if we backed off at all, he’d wind up behind the arc. He’s a tough guy to guard; he’s small, and he’s quick.”
Junior guard Aaron Poles (Rush-Henrietta/Rochester) also had a standout game for Brockport, scoring 23 points.
Fisher also got into foul trouble late. Mueller and Beigel fouled out in the final moments of the game, while Newman, McSweeney and Smalt each finished with four fouls.
“Some of that was our fault,” Kornaker said. “We just didn’t move our feet really good. You gotta adjust to the game.”
The Friday night loss ended an unlikely run for a Fisher squad that many experts predicted would not make an impact on the postseason following the graduation of a senior class that led the team to the Elite Eight during a program-best 2005-06 season. This year’s roster, which included 12 freshmen, proved doubters wrong. The team won a fourth straight Empire 8 conference championship, then coasted into the NCAA Sweet Sixteen off dominant first and second-round victories. Mueller, asked if he felt Fisher overachieved in the face of expectations this season, took a moment to reflect.
“Yes and no,” he said. “I knew we were gonna be good, but I didn’t know if we’d get there without the guys we lost. I think it helped us a lot that people didn’t think we were gonna be that good. All the freshmen; Baltz and Newman really natured throughout the season. I think we did overachieve; we knew we were gonna be pretty good, but we didn’t think we’d get this far.”
Brockport advanced to the Elite Eight round, hosted by Fisher on Saturday night, but fell 94-87 in overtime to the Wooster College Fighting Scots (29-3).