By Corey Pollnow
STATEN ISLAND—Central’s season ended with a 72-50 loss on Wednesday evening at Wagner in the quarterfinals of the NEC tournament.
Central, the No. 7 seed shot poorly – 15 for 59 – and were outplayed by Wagner, the No. 2 seed. The Seahawks defense was outstanding, specifically around the rim. Wagner blocked eight of the Blue Devils shots and altered many more due to their size and length. Naofall Folahan, 6′ 11″ recorded three blocks, including one on Malcolm McMillan that was sent into Wagner’s student section.
“Tonight was our worst performance of the year,” said Coach Howie Dickenman. Dickenman remained positive about the future with the core of the team returning next year. “We’re not down, and we’re not out. We might be out of the tournament, but were not down.”
Back-to-back defensive player of the year Kenneth Ortiz’s impact was minimal offensively, shooting two for 10, but he left his mark on other facets of the game.
“[Ortiz] is like the conductor of the orchestra. He gets people in the right places,” said Dickenman. He recorded seven assists, three steals and three rebounds and made McMillan and Vinales take difficult and contested shots.
“I told the team in the locker-room, if someone came and saw this game they’d have to scratch their head on how we beat Robert Morris, Wagner and swept Sacred Heart,” said Dickenman.
Wagner’s Jonathon Williams tallied 20 points, 13 coming in the first half. He also contributed six rebounds, two steals and one block.
In his last game as a Blue Devil, Joe Efese received the ball down low on the first two possessions of the game. Efese scored on Central’s second possession of the game, but that would be his only bucket of the game.
CCSU trailed Wagner by three points with 4:20 left in the first half, but the deficit would increase to 13 when Wagner went on a 12-2 run to close the half.
Wagner opened up the second half on a 14-7 run. Marcus Burton made back-to-back threes that were assisted by Ortiz. The lead was as big as 23 points in the second half and Central’s abysmal shooting continued – they shot nine for 32 in the period.
The NEC’s leading scorer, Kyle Vinales, led Central with 23 points on eight for 22 shooting and recorded his 17th game of 20 points or better. Vinales finished tied for seventh in the nation in scoring with fellow NEC guard Shane Gibson, averaging 21.6 points per game.
Vinales, the quickest Blue Devil to 1000 points, was named to the All-NEC first team. Matt Hunter was honored on the third team and Brandon Peel made the all-rookie team.
In his final game as a Blue Devil, Efese finished with four points, four rebounds and one block. Over the course of his career he amounted 611 points, 376 rebounds and 150 blocks. The best game of his career statistically came as a senior when he scored a career high 21 points, tied his all-time high in blocks with eight and recorded six rebounds at Sacred Heart on Feb. 23.
The Seahawks got the best of Central this season, taking two of the three match-ups. Central finished the season with nine wins and nine losses in the NEC; their overall record was 13-17.
According to ESPN, Kevin Mickle, a two-star power forward from St. Benedict Prep, will be playing for Coach Dickenman in the fall of 2013, as will Matt Mobley, a one-star shooting guard from Worcester Academy.