By Mitchel Guy
The Challengers Men’s Basketball season came to a screeching halt on March, 3rd in the first round of the OCCAC Conference Tournament. The Challengers were the four seed in the tournament and had home court advantage in this game against Sinclair Community College. The team came up short in another close game that was sealed when Sinclair’s Manny Powell Jr. drained a 3-pointer to take a 74-73 lead with less than seven seconds left to play. Tri-C’s Marquis Jackson then drove the length of the court and missed what would have been a buzzer beating lay-up.
The Challengers came out strong, starting the game on a 9-0 run. It was beginning to look like the boys were going to be headed to Circleville, Ohio for the next round of the tournament but Sinclair would not go down without a fight. Sinclair point guard, Manny Powell Jr, willed his team to victory in this one. The Challengers had no answer for the undersized Powell who finished with a game-high 29 points.
This was a back and forth battle. As it should be, in a do or die playoff match up. Tri-C went into halftime with a 41-35 lead but knew that they would need to turn their intensity level up in order to come out on top. Coach Duncan recognized that the play of Manny Powell Jr. and Connor Myslowski was keeping the score close. Coach Duncan warned his team of this at halftime.
“The guards dominated this game,” he said. Even before the game Duncan felt guard play would be a huge factor. “We asked our guards to become better defenders, to work a little bit harder.”
Sinclair was short-handed coming into this contest with only eight players dressed to play. Coach Michael Duncan seemed to be trying to take advantage of this fact early by running a full court trap in an attempt to wear down their starters. Sinclair was able to exploit this by moving the ball well and finding the open man. Sinclair was lights out from deep highlighted by an 8 of 9, 3-point performance by Powell Jr.
The hot shooting was too much to overcome as the Challengers and their fans were left stunned as the buzzer sounded. A clearly shaken Robert Fomby could only fall to the ground next to the scorer’s table in complete disbelief as Sinclair celebrated.
This would prove to be the final game for four sophomores. Robert Fomby, Marquis Jackson, Brett Thomas, and Connor Mabry all saw their Tri-C careers come to a disappointing finish. Mabry said “It’s heartbreaking for it to end like this.” Overall, the team had a successful season finishing with an 18-10 record, despite all the adversity that Coach Duncan and the boys were faced with all year.