What a time to be a Bulldog! Both the Men and Women’s basketball teams have succeeded on the floor this season and for many of the seniors, it has been the picture-perfect ending to their Brooklyn College basketball careers. And for those returning next season, there is a world of upside to look forward to.
Just a week after defeating the Baruch Bearcats for the CUNYAC Championship, Coach Ric Micallef and his team travelled to Virginia for the NCAA Division III tournament, in which they were granted an automatic bid. Despite losing in the first round to New York University, the final chapter of the 2015-2016 season ended on a historic note. Senior Egzon Gjonbalaj not only led the team with 20 points, but in doing so became Brooklyn College’s All-Time Leading Scorer. In reaction to accomplishing this momentous feat, a thankful Gjonbalaj said, “As we say before every game. ‘Can I get two claps and a Ric Flair!’”
Recording his 1,848th point, Gjonbalaj graciously recognized his coaches, teammates and all those who have supported him in four years with the Men’s Basketball Team. He exclaimed, “This season as a senior captain on the team was one of the best years of my life. I accomplished a lot of individual awards,” some of those include being the leading scorer, rebounder, and holding the record for most blocked shots and made 3-pointers, “but the best thing of them all was winning a CUNY championship with my brothers and family.”
Of those 1,848 career points, Gjonbalaj scored 20 in Brooklyn’s matchup against NYU, shooting 8-of-11 from the field, lighting up the first half. Unfortunately, the Bulldogs were unable to walk away with yet another victory to cap their season. They trailed by a mere five points going into the half, but a rejuvenated New York University outmuscled the Bulldogs, playing with aggression and efficiency to seal a first-round win. The Bulldogs shot a meek 39.3% from the field, while the Wildcats shot 69% and 37.5% from downtown.
The Bulldogs were able to cut the NYU lead down to just four with a little over 10 minutes remaining thanks to a layup by CUNYAC Championship MVP Lorenzo Williams, but following a 6-0 run by the Wildcats, the Bulldogs were unable to regain control of their fate. Despite the loss, the Bulldogs, particularly the seniors were optimistic about their season and the future of the Brooklyn College basketball program.
After the game Senior Jamel Gist said, “We set a trend, a mold, for the team next year to get back here and fight every night…Brooklyn College will definitely dance again in the future,” thanking Coach Rich Micallef for the way he’s been “running the show.” This year was the first time the Bulldogs had appeared in the NCAA tournament since 2010.
As for the Ladies representing Brooklyn College, their season-ending experiences were quite the opposite. The Lady Bulldogs suffered a heartbreaking loss in overtime in the deciding round of the CUNYAC Championship, falling to the Lehman Lightning 73-67. It was sophomore Karen Mak who forced the overtime with a driving layup off a pass from Olivia Colbert. Though the Bulldogs would go on to lose a close game in overtime, they would dominate in the ECAC (Eastern College Athletic Conference) Division III Tournament, defeating Centenary College and the College of Staten Island to take home back-to-back ECAC Championships.
The Bulldogs never once trailed in their game against Centenary College outscoring their opponent in almost every statistical category, eventually defeating the Cyclones 65-40. Advancing to the second round of the tournament, where they would face a familiar opponent in the CSI Dolphins, the Lady Bulldogs followed a similar game-plan: Never trail and you’ll never have to catch up. Led by Karen Mak, who scored 17 points, grabbed 10 boards, and dished out four assists, and was rightfully named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, the Bulldogs defeated the Dolphins 59-55, hoisting their trophy triumphantly over their heads to admire and bring back home to their house.
Via Brooklyn College Athletics, Head Coach Alex Lang expressed the pride he felt coaching this team, who worked incredibly hard all season long: “For us to get to this level of play without a senior on our roster and having no returning starters from last year’s squad is amazing. Winning consecutive ECAC Championships is a tremendous feat for our program and this 2015-2016 season gives our entire campus reason to be excited for next season…”
No truer words have been spoken. From the Kingsman and speaking on behalf of the entire Brooklyn College campus, we are all proud to be part of the Bulldog family. To the coaches, especially Coach Micallef and Coach Lang, thank you for building a team we can all be proud of and classmates we’ve shared memories with. To all of the players, thank you for dedicating yourselves to your sport and academics. To all of the seniors, thank you for leaving your heart on the court. We wish you all the best in your future endeavors. Congratulations to the Men and Women’s Basketball teams for all you have accomplished this season. What a time…!