2009-03-20 / Sports

Rockaway College Basketball Gets Involved In March Madness

By Elio Velez

College basketball fans are currently involved in following March Madness as the NCAA Tournament gets underway.

Some local college basketball stars went through similar madness with their respective teams over the last few weeks.

Ryan Pearson's freshman campaign at George Mason University had its certain highlights but last Tuesday's National Invitational Tournament first round game wasn't one to remember.

George Mason lost a three-point lead at the end of regulation when host Penn State's Talor Battle hit a game tying shot to tie the game at 65 at the buzzer.

Battle knocked down back-to-back 3- pointers to power Penn State as they advanced to the next round of the tournament.

Pearson had a nice first season at George Mason, who finished at 22-11, and lost in the Colonial Athletic Association conference title game to Virginia Commonwealth.

The former Christ the King High School all-star was named to the CAA All-Rookie team. The 6-6 forward was named the Rookie of the Week twice this season while averaging 7.3 points per game and 3.8 rebounds in only 18 minutes per game.

Freshman Michelle Kenel played her best stretch of basketball this season which mightily helped the Babson College Beavers qualify for the NCAA Division III Tournament.

The Rockaway native was named the New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference Basketball Player of the Week on March 2. Kenel helped Babson win the NEWMAC conference title and an automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament.

Kenel averaged 9.3 points, grabbed 5.3 rebounds off the bench throughout the tournament. The 5-8 guard from Bishop Kearney High School scored 11 points, 8 rebounds and hit three 3- pointers in the championship game as Babson (20-9) beat Wheaton, 51-43.

"Our guards came up huge for us this week, and Michelle was certainly one of the people at the forefront of that group," said head coach Judy Blinstrub.

"Points were at a premium throughout the tournament, and as a result every shot that Michelle hit was huge for us. On top of that, she went inside and pulled down some clutch rebounds on the defensive end, which was especially key in the conference finals."

Babson's post-season run was cut short in the first round by the Amherst Lady Jeffs on March 6.

Kelly Carman and the University of Scranton were eliminated only one game away from reaching the NCAA Division III Final Four.

A high school player at Mary Louis Academy in Jamaica Estates, the freshman backup center's team of reaching the title was upended by the College of New Jersey, 54-48, on March 14 at the University of Rochester.

Scranton fell short of going to their ninth NCAA Final four in school history.

The Lady Royals ended their campaign at 26-5 as they won 24 out of 25 games after starting the season at 3-3. Scranton led by three points with 4:02 remaining in the second half, but New Jersey held their opponents as their opponents only scored four more points.

Lionel Hilaire scored 10 points and grabbed six rebounds but the Baruch College Bearcats fell short in the first round of the NCAA Division III Men's Basketball Tournament on March 6. #18 seed UMass-Darmouth defeated Baruch, 82-72, with the loss eliminating the Far Rockaway sophomore's team. Baruch finished with a 23-6 record.

Hilaire, a starting point guard, graduated from Archbishop Molloy and is teammates with three other high school graduates, George Kunkel, Mike Dietz and Sean Loftus.

Yale freshman forward Michelle Cashen was named to the All Ivy- Rookie team on March 12.

Cashen only averaged 5.0 and 4.3 rebounds but the former Midwood High school star had her time on the floor increased after starter Haywood Wright suffered a season ending injury in mid-February.

The Yale forward was named the Ivy League Rookie of the Week in December. Along with second Ivy League team selection Melissa Colborne, Yale coach Chris Gobrecht will have two solid starters returning for next year.

"The best part is that Melissa and Michelle are both back next year, and this team will potentially be the best Yale has ever put on the floor," said Gobrecht on yalebulldogs.com.

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