Belardo, two others leaving Canisius basketball

Following a coaching change from Tom Parrotta to Jim Baron, Canisius point guard Gaby Belardo announced today he will not be retuning to the program.

Freshman Franklin Milian and sophomore David Santiago will also leave the team, Canisius announced.

Belardo — who played one year at South Florida, transferred to Canisius, redshirted and then played two years for the Griffs — has one year of eligibility remaining. He already earned his undergraduate degree and will make use of an NCAA rule to allows students to transfer without having to sit out if they already have a degree.

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Niagara eliminates Canisius from MAAC Tournament

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – Canisius’ nightmare season came to an uninspired end Friday night in the play-in round of the MAAC Tournament, where the Niagara Purple Eagles finished off their arch rival, 80-70, beating Canisius for the third time this season.

Any time Canisius made a push to get back into the game, Niagara answered with a big shot to protect its ten-point cushion in the second half. MAAC Rookie of the Year Juan’ya Green led Niagara with 20 points, including 13 in the first half, while Ameen Tanksley had a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds. All five Niagara starters scored in double-digits.

Harold Washington lived up to his title as a Second Team All-MAAC member, shifting through Niagara’s 2-3 zone for a game-high 24 points on 9-of-16 shooting, but missed six of his ten free throws. Guards Washington and Alshwan Hymes combined for nine of Canisius’ 16 turnovers.

The Griffs actually shot 52.1 percent in the game but missed free throws (7 for 17 on the night) and allowed Niagara to collect 18 offensive rebounds.

“That was the difference in the game,” Canisius coach Tom Parrotta said. “Over the course of 40 minutes, to give up that many offensive rebounds  … was ultimately our demise.

“In my mind, anytime you give up an offensive rebound, I just kind of look away and say ‘it’s a basket.’ And that seemed to happen obviously more than it should have tonight. … They beat us to loose basketballs, they got those offensive rebounds and made us pay for it.”

Gaby Belardo was 0-for-6 shooting in the first half but found his touch in the second half, finishing with 18 points. Hymes was 2-for-3 from behind the arc and had 16.

“Shooting 52 percent, most teams would win,” Hymes said. “I think we didn’t take care of the ball enough throughout the game. We gave them a lot of shots that we shouldn’t have. We just didn’t have a good feel for the game.”

A 13-2 run midway through the first half gave Canisius its only lead of the game. It got as close as seven points in the second half but Niagara wouldn’t let its rival creep any closer. Niagara led 33-26 and halftime and Canisius finished the year 0-19 when trailing at the break.

The Griffs ended the year with a 5-25 record and only one victory against a conference team. The only loss for next season is scarcely-used forward Marial Dhal, the tallest player ever to play in the MAAC (7-foot-3), while forwards Freddy Asprilla and Jordan Heath as well as guard Isaac Sosa all become eligible. All three were forced to sit out this season after transferring to Canisius.

Parrotta has one year left on his contract. Through six years on the job, his record as Canisius coach is 64-121 and this season is his second time with 25 losses. What he has going for him is the academic side — all seniors in his program graduate with their master’s degrees in four years.

David Santiago did not make the trip to the tournament due to a violation of team rules. The athletic department said his violation was a separate incident from the one that kept Melissa Gardner of the women’s team back in Buffalo.

Niagara sneaks past Canisius in OT; Griffs drop 10th straight

LEWISTON — For as disappointing as this season has been for the Canisius Golden Griffins, they were in a position Wednesday night to make it all go away.

Junior Alshwan Hymes was the Griff who deserved to take the final shot Wednesday night at the Gallagher Center.

A win over rival Niagara on its home court wouldn’t erase Canisius’ 4-21 record, wouldn’t make the team’s injuries heal any faster and wouldn’t make the blowout losses any less embarrassing, but for one night, everything would have been okay.

Alshwan Hymes stepped to the free-throw line with 6.7 seconds left in regulation and calmly hit both shots to tie the game at 55 and send his Griffs to overtime. Down by three points with the clock running out in the overtime period, Hymes again had the ball, and the game, in his hands.

After Gaby Belardo made a nice pass to find Hymes wide open, he set his feet, jumped, and released a clean look that would have sent the game to a second overtime. This time, Hymes’ shot hit the rim and fell back toward the floor. Belardo collected the rebound and ran behind the arc for a desperation attempt, but it was off the mark and Niagara claimed a 60-57 win.

“The ball was in our hands, on our terms, on the very last possession,” Canisius coach Tom Parrotta said. “We had a couple of shots at it. Gaby missed a layup, which he knows he needs to make the next time he’s in that position, but he turned around and made a great pass to ‘Shwan — who else do you want standing there with his feet set taking a three to send it to double overtime?”

“We needed three points, wide open three-pointer, that’s a shot I got to make,” Hymes said.

Canisius’ hopes had to come down to Hymes, who was the only Griff who could have been remotely happy with his offensive performance. He kept Canisius in the game with five three-pointers and finished with 19 points, more than twice as many as any teammate. Belardo and Harold Washington combined went 3-for-23 and scored 14 points, most of which coming from the free-throw line.

Neither team managed a field goal in overtime, with Niagara going 0-for-4 and Canisius going 0-for-8. The game was decided by five Niagara free throws in the extra session, all hit by Antoine Mason, who finished with a game-high 21 points. MAAC Rookie of the Year candidate Juan’ya Green had 16 points and five assists while knocking down 4 of 9 three-point attempts.

Shooting issues weren’t limited to overtime. Only 15 of the 59 three-point attempts in the game went in, just over 25 percent (Canisius 8 for 30, Niagara 7 for 29).

“It certainly wasn’t a beautiful thing,” Niagara coach Joe Mihalich said. “It wasn’t beautiful, it wasn’t pretty, but at the end of the day, we won. Winners find a way to win.”

The key point of the game in regulation came when Josiah Heath converted the old-school three-point play – a basket and a foul shot – to tie the score at 41 with 12:23 to go. Neither team could score over the next three minutes as tension grew with possession of the game in the balance.

Franklin Milian hit a free throw with 9:11 left to give Canisius its first lead of the night and Hymes scored from distance later to make it a 7-0 run that put the visitors ahead 45-41. But Niagara answered with a 10-0 run of its own to retake a lead Canisius wouldn’t match until Hymes’ free throw and the end of regulation.

Heath, a freshman, was dominant on the glass with 14 rebounds and came up with a block and a steal on consecutive critical possessions in overtime.

It’s been over a decade since Canisius last beat Niagara at the Gallagher Center, though the last two games have come down to the final play. In last year’s meeting, Niagara won on a goaltending call at the buzzer, and Wednesday night took overtime before the Purple Eagles walked off victorious. Through 167 all-time meetings between the two schools, 18 games have gone to overtime, with each side winning nine apiece.

Short bench no problem for Siena as Canisius drops ninth straight

Canisius has pointed to its lack of depth all season as the reason it can’t stay in games. A short bench didn’t seem to slow down the Siena Saints Saturday afternoon, who brought only eight players to Buffalo and still worked over Canisius, winning its first road conference game of the year, 60-50.

Fatigue never seemed to set in to the same six-man rotation Siena coach Mitch Buonaguro also used Thursday night against Niagara and has employed much of the season. Senior guard Kyle Downey played the entire game and scored 15 points while MAAC Rookie of the Year candidate Evan Hymes didn’t check out until the final minute and finished with 12 points. Siena big man OD Anosike logged 36 minutes and picked up his 19th double-double of the season with 15 points and 11 rebounds.

Everyone's role changes depending on the availability of Gaby Belardo, who herniated two discs in his back.

Canisius had Gaby Belardo back and Reggie Groves saw his first action since coming off suspension, but none of the 12 Griffs who got into the game could keep pace with the Siena Six.

“I looked across at the national anthem and I’m like, ‘where’s the rest of their team?’ ” Canisius coach Tom Parrotta said. “They are very, very in-tune, those six guys, what they do as individuals and what they do as a team. Because everyone is in their role. That’s where it’s different from where we stand. We have depth issues, absolutely … but [everyone’s] role is shifted now.

“Their roles are unbelievably defined and they know exactly what to do and they play the right way for what they got. But if you take one of those guys out of there and someone else has to do some different things (like Canisius has to do when Belardo can’t go), it becomes a much different team.”

Siena, faced with both injuries and eligibility issues, has had limited depth all season. That benefited some players, like freshman Evan Hymes, who otherwise wouldn’t have gotten off the bench. Those who would have started either way say the team’s issues are forcing them to become better players.

“It’s kind of the ultimate teacher. If you play bad defense you’re going to go sit on the bench and the scoreboards going to run up pretty quickly because we don’t have that many guys,” Downey said. “We could run for days right now.”

Belardo started on the bench but gave his team a spark midway through the first half. Siena led by as many as five early on before Belardo hit four shots in a row – three 3-pointers and a layup – to put Canisius up 23-22 with 8:14 left in the first half.

But that would be the Griffs’ last lead of the game. They hit only one field goal the rest of the half while the Saints closed the period on a 15-3 run to take a 37-26 lead into the locker room.

The run reached 30-10 midway through the second half as Canisius struggled to put a comeback attempt together. Siena pushed its lead to 19 at several points and only a 9-0 run to close the game brought the score within 10 points.

Harold Washington had difficulty getting through Siena’s zone much of the first half but found his way in the later stages, finishing with 16 points on 7-of-14 shooting. Alshwan Hymes took advantage of the zone with back-to-back 3-pointers early but struggled overall, going 3 of 11 from the floor for eight points.

With the loss, Canisius falls to 4-21 on the year and has lost to ever team in the conference by double-digits.

“It’s not fun,” Parrotta said, “it really isn’t. But we have to stick to our guns. That’s all we can do … It stinks, and it’s not okay – it’s not okay – but this is what it is.

“We have to continue to build and get better every day … I want this team to be as good as they possibly can be when we get to Springfield (site of the MAAC Tournament) … But if we let frustration come into what we’re doing here, we might as well not even show up for practice. But that has not been the case with these guys. They’re in there chomping at the bit and will continue to do so. We just don’t have the wins to show for it.”

Canisius basketball throws away passes, victory

All Gaby Belardo could do was sit and watch as his team let an upset of the Rider Broncs slip through its fingers last night at the Koessler Athletic Center.

Harold Washington scored 15 points and even pulled down 10 rebounds last night for his first career double-double.

The junior guard has battled through a back injury all season to try to give some quality minutes to a team struggling to remain competitive. But after receiving an injection Wednesday that hadn’t taken full effect, coaches decided Thursday morning to hold him out and get him ready for Saturday’s matchup with Siena.

Belardo watched his team control the first half and walked to the locker room with them at halftime leading 34-29. He watched his team continue to outscore Rider deep into the second half, going up as many as 10 points with 7:19 to play.

But when the Broncs went to a full-court press, Belardo wished he could have been out there, giving his team a veteran presence it desperately needed. Instead, he could only watch as the Griffs turned the ball over on five straight possessions while Rider ripped off a 13-0 run, taking its first lead of the night with 1:38 left and securing 71-66 the win, sinking the Griffs to 4-20 overall and 1-13 in MAAC play.

“It was hard at the end because we needed a ball handler and I wasn’t there,” Belardo said. “Those last two minutes I think the team needed me and I feel bad I wasn’t with my teammates.

“I hate sitting down, even when my back is feeling bad I still want to play. Coach [Tom Parrotta] told me to take the day off and be ready for Siena but it hurts a lot just watching my teammates giving 110 percent and not winning. I feel bad. I kind of feel like I let my team down but we’re definitely going to get this win on Saturday.”

On a night when it looked like the Griffs would pick up their second win of the calendar year, the end result was instead a collapse that extended the team’s losing streak to eight games. The Broncs’ Novar Gadson led all players with 19 points.

“We kind of went into a lull,” said junior Harold Washington, who had a double-double of 15 points and 10 rebounds but also was charged with the first two turnovers during the Griffs’ collapse. “Nobody could find their scoring touch. We were kind of desperate for a basket so sometimes we find ourselves forcing the issue a little bit. Once they began to full-court press us, I think we kind of broke down a little mentally and started playing to their hands and started to panic, and that’s what led to the back-to-back turnovers.”

The Griffs were two guards down last night without Belardo and Reggie Groves, who had his suspension lifted by Parrotta earlier this week but did not get into the game. Lack of depth has been an issue for Canisius all season, bust last night, the opponent was shorthanded as well.

The mysterious gastrointestinal virus afflicting students at Princeton and Rider universities hit the Rider basketball team, Broncs coach Tommy Dempsey said, as bench players Eddie Mitchell and Junior Fortunat were “struck ill” on the bus ride to Buffalo. The players combine to score over eight points per game but will remain secluded from the team until cleared to play by doctors. Dempsey hopes they will able to play in the second game of the trip against Niagara.

The low point of the game came with 18 seconds left after Rider’s Novar Gadson hit a free throw to put his team up two possessions, 67-63. Parrotta took his last timeout to draw up a play and sent freshman Tyler Funk to inbound the ball. When Funk couldn’t find a man, he tried to call a timeout, but was assessed a technical foul because Canisius didn’t have any left to take.

Parrotta took responsibility for the play after the game, saying he shouldn’t have put a player in that situation who wasn’t ready for it, but when Jeff Jones hit both ensuing free throws the game was essentially out of reach.

Belardo gets back to action Saturday afternoon when the Siena Saints come to the KAC. He may be hoping for a repeat of the last time Siena visited Canisius – Belardo hit the game-winning shot with 11 seconds left to knock off the three-time defending champs.