MAAC midpoint awards

There are 10 teams in the MAAC, and each team plays the other nine twice in league play. Nine times two is 18, and with every team having played nine games, that means everyone’s league season is at least half over.

I’m fantastic at math, I know.

What being halfway through the season really means is that it’s time for halftime awards. I’ll give you my favorite to win the MAAC, and my First Team All-MAAC at the halfway point.

Thus far through league play, Ryan Rossiter and Mike Glover are shoe-ins for the First Team. That doesn’t mean they will be shoe-ins for the real thing come March, but for the halfway point, I don’t think anyone would argue against this.

I have three spaces left to fill. The only players in my mind who have legitimate claims to the title are Derek Needham, Justin Robinson and Scott Machado.

Others can make a case, but they don’t have the connotation of “First Team All-League” just yet, not to me at least.

Anthony Nelson and George Beamon probably won’t enjoy reading this. Mike Ringgold and Nick Leon can ball, and Novar Gadson is no slouch either.

There are a handful of good players in the league who are putting up good numbers, people like Kyle Smith, Kashief Edwards, Elton Frazier and Rhamel Brown, but there’s no way they crack the league’s top-5.

I’m more of a “that guy can play, I’d want him on my team” type of observer of college basketball.  Justin Robinson might fit this description better than anyone.  He handles the ball well and always seems to come up with a clutch shot.

Scott Machado can flat-out play, and Derek Needham is one of the best scorers in the conference, not to mention he’s only a sophomore.

I’d like to say I don’t count playing on a bad team against a player, but looking at my list I guess I did. We’ll call this an isolated incident. Beamon and Nelson have the scoring numbers, but they have to be doing something wrong too if their teams are only 1-8. When you are getting blown out of games, the opponent’s defense tends to soften up a little bit.

For MAAC Champ, my pick at this point is Fairfield. I know it’s easy to pick a team with a 2.5 game lead with 9 to play, but the Stags have the intangibles I haven’t seen out of any other team yet.

It starts and ends with head coach Ed Cooley. I’d put Cooley up against any other MAAC coach with the game on the line, and what he said in the press conference last week really stood out for me.

It started with a silly question, really, asking Derek Needham if he was glad he didn’t have to face 7-foot-3 Marial Dhal in the game against Canisius. Derek took the joke, but Cooley was on another level.

Without missing a beat, he made sure to let every reporter in the room know that Fairfield “isn’t afraid of anybody,” and that no matter who the opponent is they are facing, the Stags will prevail with defense and team play.

Not even LeBron James was spared in Cooley’s rant.

How many coaches would put their team against LeBron James? Coach K, Tom Izzo… maybe.  But Ed Cooley? Bring ‘em on!

Last-minute heroics push Griffs past defending champs

Video courtesy of Canisius College Athletics

Tom Parrotta trusted his team when it mattered most Friday night at the Koessler Athletic Center, and it paid large dividends for the Canisius College basketball program as the Griffs knocked off three-time defending league champion Siena, 62-61, for the first time in Parrotta’s career.

The fifth-year head coach opted not to call a timeout with 19 seconds to play and his team down by one. After a Ryan Rossiter layup, sophomore Gaby Belardo took the inbounds pass coast-to-coast and got a floater to fall with 11 seconds left in the game.

After Siena brought the ball up the court and called a timeout, Parrotta was faced with a decision in the huddle. He thought about playing zone. He thought about bringing his 7-foot-3 junior, Marial Dhal in to screen the pass. But when his team told him they wanted to play man defense to win the game, he went with it.

"El Bijus" is a nickname made up for Belardo by teammates in his native Puerto Rico. It means, "The Killer."

“We went back and forth, and it was these guys’ decision to go man,” Parrotta said, motioning to the players next to him at the press conference. “We were going back and forth whether to go zone or not, and they stepped up in the huddle… I was overridden. They said, ‘No, we’re going to win this game playing man,’ and I said ‘Have at it,’ and that’s exactly what they did.”

The Saints found their man Rossiter on the inbound, but when the Preseason Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Player of the Year when in for the game-winning layup, senior Tomas Vazquez-Simmons was there to swat the ball out of his hands for the win.

“I knew it was coming to him,” Vazquez-Simmons said. “[Rossiter] is their play-maker, he’s their go-to guy… it only made sense that they would go to him.”

Sophomore Alshawn Hymes continued to have the touch from 3-point range, going 6 of 11 from behind the arc and leading all players with 19 points. Rossiter (19 points, 14 rebounds) and OD Anosike (12 points, 11 boards) both had double-doubles for the Saints. Siena’s Clarence Jackson (16.9 ppg) missed his fifth-straight game due to injury.

Canisius trailed by 10 midway through the first half but closed the deficit to 33-32 at the break, thanks in part to senior Julius Coles’ 13 points, which led all players.

Siena led for the majority of the second half, but could never pull away from Canisius despite having a commanding lead in the rebounding department, 44-30.

The largest lead Canisius had in the entire game was three points, but they had it when it mattered most.

The win is Canisius’ first MAAC win of the year (7-7 overall, 1-3 MAAC), and the team’s third victory in its last four games. The Saints (2-2 MAAC) still have the edge in the league standings, but fall to 5-9 on the season.

Tom Parrotta has now beaten every MAAC team as coach of the Golden Griffins. Perhaps more impressive is that the win came in a game Canisius trailed at halftime, something that has only happened eight times since Parrotta took over in 2006.

Up next for the Griffs is a league game against Rider (11-5, 3-1 MAAC), who disposed of Niagara, 82-65, Friday night. The 2 p.m. tipoff gives Parrotta a shot to rid the program of another blemish on its record—23 straight Sunday losses.