Men’s Team Tied for Third Place with Three Others, Record at 9-4
By Robert Fenbers
Early this season, Tri-C men’s basketball became more than just a game – it became a bond between teammates to play their hearts out for one of their own who couldn’t.
Returning player and team captain Antonio Mason is recovering from spinal cord injuries after an alleged drunk driver slammed into his car at 100 mph on Oct. 12, according to police reports. The impact ejected Mason out of the car paralyzing him from the waist down. The tragic news hit the team hard and it seemed the Challengers team would face adversity early.
The team started off strong as they compiled six consecutive wins, including a thrilling double-overtime win against Mercyhurst North East, 113-96, on Nov. 15. The offense continues to impress averaging 81 pts/game, led by Freshman guard Cairo Brown and Sophomore forward Robert Fomby, who average 17.9 and 16.6 pts/game, respectively.
Fomby was recently named the Ohio Community College Athletic Conference’s player of the week Dec. 8.
“Fomby averaged 16.2 points, 13 rebounds, 2.3 steals and 1.3 assists per game over three contests last week,” writes OCCAC sports information writer Nicholas Huenefeld on the conference Website. “In a 76-72 loss to Niagara, he had 12 points and six rebounds. In an 87-64 win over Mercyhurst North East, he had 28 points and 18 rebounds. Then, in a 90-51 win over CC of Allegheny County, he had 12 points, 15 rebounds, four steals and three assists.”
Brown was the conference’s first men’s player of the week for the preseason in November.
Brown was recently suspended for three games which the Challengers lost all three. Head Coach Michael Duncan said Brown was suspended for disciplinary reasons.
“On the team, he needs leadership. He needs to understand that he needs to be a leader, both on and off the court,” Duncan said. “He’s got to make better decisions, and when he doesn’t make those decisions it’s going to affect the team, and also himself.”
In an emotionally charged game Dec. 9, the Challengers fell to Niagara 76-72 in OT and welcomed back Mason to the sidelines who conducted an interview with The Voice News.
“I have my good days and my bad days. It’s rough but I’m fighting. I’ve got a lot of support,” he said. Mason still has no use or feeling in his legs and has been transferred to a nursing home.
Though the Challengers lost three in a row earlier this season and sit at 9-4 on the cusp of conference play, first-year Coach Duncan remains optimistic of his team.
“We have some good depth and guys are buying in to play team basketball,” said Duncan.
The team began a crucial four-game road trip on Dec. 11, with a statement win over Mercyhurst North East. The Challengers played suffocating defense holding their opponent to only 35-percent shooting in the 87-64 victory. This was exactly how Duncan wanted his team to perform on the road.
“(I’m) just trying to get those guys to get better … get better at their craft and their responsibilities,” Duncan said.
They then followed up with another dominating performance against Community College of Allegheny County 90-51, and a hard fought win against Macomb Community College 69-61, finishing the trip with a tough loss against Lansing Community College, 99-91, in Michigan.
Coming up, the leading two contenders in the OCCAC that the Challengers will have to face are Cincinnati State in first place with a 12-2 preconference record, followed by Owens, 11-4.
As the Challengers prepare for conference play in January they are sure to be tested. It is too early to talk about a deep playoff run but with what this team has already faced, they have the heart of a champion.
Bronson Peshlakai contributed to this report. All stats courtesy of OCCAC.ORG.
MEN’S BASKETBALL CONFERENCE SCHEDULE
|Sat.||Jan. 10||3 p.m.||Columbus State||Home — Eastern Campus|
|Wed.||Jan. 14||7:30 p.m.||Owens||Away — Toledo|
|Sat.||Jan. 17||3 p.m.||Cincinnati State||Away — Cincinnati|
|Wed.||Jan. 21||7:30 p.m.||Lorain County||Home — Metro Campus|
|Sat.||Jan. 24||3 p.m.||Sinclair||Home — Metro Campus|
|Wed.||Jan. 28||7:30 p.m.||Lakeland||Home — Eastern Campus|
|Sat.||Jan. 31||3 p.m.||Edison||Away — Piqua|
|Wed.||Feb. 4||7:30 p.m.||Owens||Home — Metro Campus|
|Sat.||Feb. 7||3 p.m.||Columbus State||Away– Columbus|
|Wed.||Feb. 11||7:30 p.m.||Lorain County||Away — Elyria|
|Sat.||Feb. 14||3 p.m.||Cincinnati State||Home — Metro Campus|
|Wed.||Feb. 18||7:30 p.m.||Lakeland||Away — Kirtland|
|Sat.||Feb. 21||4 p.m.||Sinclair||Away — Dayton|
|Sat.||Feb. 28||3 p.m.||Edison||Home — Metro Campus|
GO CHALLENGERS !!!
- Tags: antonio mason, cairo brown, CHALLENGERS, cleveland, coach michael mike duncan, cuyahoga community college, men's basketball, Metro Campus, nicholas huenefeld, njcaa, occac, ohio, ohio community college athletic conference, player of the week, robby, robert fenbers, robert fomby, sports editor, the voice news, Tri-C