By Connor Iapoce & Brett Friedensohn
Sports Editor, Editor-in-Chief
The men’s basketball Titans at County College of Morris fell short of glory after winning the Garden State Athletic Conference championship and reaching the championship game of the Region XIX DII tournament, where their season ended in a heartbreaking 74-76 loss against Ulster County Community College.
The Titans concluded the 2017-2018 season with an overall record of 21-9 and a conference championship under their belt.
CCM athletic director Jack Sullivan disagreed with labeling the game as a Region XIX championship loss due to technicalities about the designation of the game.
“Technically, it was a district championship, not the region title,” Sullivan said. “Ulster is from outside the region. It was a district game to see who goes to the national tournament. Technically, we were on top of the Region XIX, so we won the Region XIX, but it didn’t give us an automatic bid. I guess we’re the regular season Region XIX champions and Garden State Athletic Conference Champions, 21-9.”
Meanwhile, the Titans are still dealing with the shortened end of a successful season, with the second half of the season consisting of 13 wins and three losses. The Titans entered the Region XIX championship on a five-game win streak.
“I think that we all bought in,” said D’Ondre Dent, a freshman guard. “We came together, there was a lot of leadership skills by [sophomores] Ishmil Raymond and Ranell Bell. We bought into what the coach has been teaching us, and I know we came together, and everything became easy. Once you do everything you’re supposed to do, it became easy. That’s why you saw that win streak.”
The loss from an out of region team was especially disappointing for Dent, who said he saw it as a stolen win in a game that should been theirs to win.
“The team we lost to, they weren’t in our region,” Dent said. “They came in and took our trophy. Now, they’re probably dancing in Danville right now. I’ll never forget that feeling. I didn’t play the game, I got hurt the game before so watching them, that was my first time. Watching them and to lose by two, that hurt so I’m definitely using that as motivation for next year.”
The championship game against Ulster came down to the wire for the Titans, with a two-point difference deciding the winner. The Titans were leading Ulster 35-31 entering halftime, but the team was ultimately outscored 45 to 39 in the second half, with the final score of 74-76.
“It hurt,” Dent said. “The team was good, but we definitely shot ourselves in the foot. Hopefully, we’ll work hard. We’re in the gym, and we’ll work hard. We are already in the gym and took a week off for spring break, so we’re focused on next year. Get to that same position, but have a different outcome.”
Before this playoff run, the Titans had not reached the Region XIX playoffs since the 2012-2013 season.
“We were the second seed going into it which is huge because it hasn’t happened in years, forget about us even going in,” said freshman red shirt Andrew Sosna. “So, we made it very far in that regard. We played our hearts out; I know the guys were frustrated with the loss. I think that we got in our own heads, and I think that’s why we couldn’t deliver. When this team plays at optimum capacity, we are unstoppable.”
The two championships were the first at CCM for head coach Anthony Obery, who is in his fourth season as a CCM coach and third season as the head coach.
“They came in and took our trophy. Now, they’re probably dancing in Danville right now. I’ll never forget that feeling.”
Sosna said he has been waiting all season for a chance to join the team and is hoping next season can capitalize on this year’s success.
“I think a lot of our sophomores are leaving this year, which is upsetting, but good for them,” said Sosna. “I know they’re going on to bigger, better things. I think we have a team that’s ready to work, we have a good program, and we have coaches that are ready to kick us into high gear. I’m excited. I’m super excited. I’ve been waiting all year for this, honestly. I think we can deliver again.”
Sullivan is also confident the team will be able to find success again next season.
“I like the freshman we have coming back,” Sullivan said. “I thought they were outstanding. I think that they can go from there. I think there’s a lot to be excited about.”