Sunday, December 19, 2010

Charles Jenkins Gets His 2000th Career Point as Hofstra Rolls By Manhattan

Two years ago, Tieff and I made the drive up to Riverdale to see Hofstra play Manhattan.  We got up there late and found out that the parking lots were full, and that we had to find a parking spot somewhere on a side street.  It felt like we were looking for a spot forever and when we finally found one, it seemed like we walked half of Riverdale in the dark to get to the Draddy Gymnasium on the campus of Manhattan College.

Having learned from that experience, I left shortly before 5:15 to make the trek up there again for the 7:00 PM start time.  This time, it was a solo trip since Tieff was suffering from a bad cold.  I made it up to Riverdale in 45 minutes, and even though I got slightly lost (and that was even with my GPS),  I made it to the entrance to Manhattan College a little after 6:00 PM. 

When I asked the guard if there was a lot I can park in, I was dreading the response.  The guard simply pointed to the first lot to the right of the entrance and said, "You can park there."   It was a small lot for maybe 40 cars, but there was maybe a total of five when my car made it six.   It made sense because Manhattan was probably on holiday break and the Jaspers were also struggling at 2-8.  However, apparently I was fortunate to get there early.  That's because Mr and Mrs. Beach, aka Defiantly Dutch and the First Lady of Defiantly Dutch, came around game time and they told me of their parking horror.   Needless to say I wasn't surprised and I told them of our tale of woe from two years ago.

After walking three different sets of stairs across campus, I finally made it to the front of the Draddy Gymnasium.  Draddy Gymnasium is a 2500 seat multipurpose gym that includes the largest indoor track in New York City.   Probably due to that large track and the high ceiling, it kind of reminds me of the Armory Track and Field Center in Washington Heights where I ran a few winter track events in high school.

As you can see by the photo, for basketball games, the gymnasium is cut in half.  The first half is the open entrance where they put up a make shift concessions stand.  Behind that is the row of seats with the seat backs for season ticket holders or premium seating for the basketball court.  The rest of the seating for the basketball court is bleacher seating.

I sat on the opposite site of that section with the seatbacks, which also happened to be the side where the players benches were on. Then I saw the sign pictured on the left that said "Welcome to the Jasper Jungle".  Due to the lack of a crowd, I felt like I was more at a zoo, because the animals were pretty sedated Saturday night.

During warmups, half of the sound system's speakers in the old gymnasium temporarily blew out which left the other half which was coming from the corner on the right to me.  It was kind of like listening to headphones with the headphones not plugged all the way in to the jack. Though they fixed the problem shortly before game time, the speaker blow out was a sign of things to come Saturday night for the Jaspers.

It had been six seasons since Manhattan's last NCAA Tournament team, the 2003-04 Jaspers who knocked off Florida in the first round of the tournament.  Luis Flores' 26 points buried a Gators team that featured NBA star David Lee.  Manhattan then barely lost to Wake Forest in the second round that season.  It was the second season in a row that Manhattan had made the NCAA Tournament.  The season before, the Jaspers lost to Syracuse in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. 

Manhattan's last claim to postseason fame was the 2006 NIT, where the Jaspers went to Maryland and upset the Terrapins before losing in the second round to Old Dominion.  Shortly thereafter, coach Bobby Gonzalez, who wore out his welcome at Manhattan with his fiery and often too combative personality, headed for Seton Hall.  He was fired there after a few seasons, basically in an epic meltdown of monumental proportions.   Meanwhile the Jaspers have struggled with losing records in three of their last four seasons.  And with their record of 2-8 going into the game vs Hofstra, it sure looks like it's going to be four of their last five seasons.

I looked at all of the banners hanging from the rafters of Draddy Gymnasium.  Among those banners were their NCAA and NIT banners for men's basketball, along with all the banners for their other sport championships.   Then, I noticed one of the banners was the list of 1000 + point men's basketball scorers.  Luis Flores' name was on the banner, and in fact, he is a member of the 2000 point plus club at Manhattan.

And it's ironic that someone Saturday night was also going to be a member of a 2000 point plus club.   Charles Jenkins was five points away from being a select member of Hofstra's 2000 point group.  And in attendance was another member of that Hofstra group, Speedy Claxton, who recently retired from the NBA and is now a scout for the Golden State Warriors.
The game started out with a steal by David Imes which led to a layup by Dwan McMillan for a 2-0 lead.  Imes then hit a free throw to make the score 3-0.  Basically in that one minute and ten seconds was Imes' night.  He picked up two fouls in the first half and only played eleven minutes.  And since Manhattan played a zone for most of the evening, Coach Mo Cassara wisely responded with a smaller lineup for most of the rest of the game.

The first half was relatively close for the first ten minutes.  Recent Alabama transfer Demetrius Jemison kept his Jaspers close by scoring seven of his team's first twelve points.  A George Beamon layup would cut the Hofstra lead to one, 15-14 with 10:47 left.

Then Hofstra started pulling away and created a little history in the process.  Jenkins started the 10-2 mini-spurt with a three and finished the spurt with a layup to put Hofstra up 25-16 with 7:47 left.  With the layup, the Hofstra fans in attendance that were in the know cheered and gave him a mini standing ovation.  Then the PA announcer graciously told the crowd that with the layup, Jenkins had reached the 2000 point total for his career. 

But those were the only points that Jenkins scored in the first half.  However, the Pride first half offense didn't need Jenkins.  Brad Kelleher was inserted into the game early on and he made a definite impression in only his second game ever for the Pride.  As I noted earlier, the Jaspers played a zone for a good part of the game.  And Outback Brad made them pay by nailing four three pointers in the first half and scored 14 points overall.  His fourth three pointer of the first half gave Hofstra their largest lead of the half 39-23.

But Kelleher was not alone in the first half scoring festivities for the Pride.  A small group of Lions Den fans made the trip for the game and ended up sitting behind the Hofstra basket in the first half.  And they chanted "We want Moore!" every time that junior guard Mike Moore scored from Hofstra.  And he scored often in the first half with 12 first half points.  Thanks to Moore and Kelleher, the score was 42-29 Hofstra at the half.  The Pride shot 53.6 percent in the first half which included 7 of 10 from beyond the arc.

I was sitting with Jerry and his lovely wife Michelle, aka the First Lady of Defiantly Dutch.  And at the half, Jerry, Michelle and I talked about this was one of those games where Hofstra needed to win by 20 and not allow Manhattan to get back in the game.  And you know, when you talk like that, the basketball gods that are listening tend to try to even things out.

But early on in the second half, it seemed the basketball gods weren't paying attention to the "Beach-Moore Halftime Rival Blogger Summit".  Jenkins and Moore scored the first eleven points for Hofstra.  The final four of those came on a Moore four point play as he was fouled hitting a three and the Pride were up 53-40 with 12:23 left.

Then the basketball gods made their presence known as did Manhattan.  The Jaspers went on a 10-0 run over the next nearly five minutes.  Beamon capped the run, by scoring two of his twenty two points on a layup.  And suddenly the Hofstra lead was down to three, 53-50 with 7:30 left.  The mild Jasper Jungle faithful now were suddenly in the game as was their team.

But as I have seen over the years, there are certainties in life.  Death, taxes, the Meadowbrook Parkway becoming a parking lot by the Roosevelt Field Mall during Christmas season, and now for the past four seasons, Charles Jenkins having a monster second half.  And when the Pride were on the precipice of giving up once was a sixteen point lead and with the shot clocking winding down, Jenkins came through once again.  He nailed a NBA three to put the Pride up 56-50.  And even though Jenkins hit the three, Coach Mo Cassara noticed that his team was still struggling to move the ball on offense and thus wisely called timeout after the basket.

Whatever Cassara said to them worked, because the first Jenkins three was followed by another Jenkins three.  Then a Shemiye McLendon three, then a Moore three.  Despite the gym ceiling, the Pride were raining down shots from beyond the arc.  Before you knew it, once what was a slim three point lead became a 20 point margin, 71-51, thanks to a Hofstra 18-1 run over a five minute span.  With 2:39 left, the Jasper Jungle faithful were heading for the exits.

During garbage time, Manhattan would score the last seven points to trim the final margin to 13, as the Pride won 71-58.  During his sixteen point second half barrage, Jenkins would actually pass Claxton on the all time Hofstra scoring list with 2016 points.  Moore added a double double with 20 points and 10 rebounds.  Kelleher didn't score any points in the second half, but he did his damage in the first half with his 14 points.

The Pride as a whole shot 45 percent but that was including a blistering 12 of 21 from beyond the arc (57 percent).  Manhattan was led by Beamon's 22 points on 8 of 14 shooting, but he was the only Jasper in double figures as the rest of his teammates only shot 11 of 31 from the field. 

As I made my way across campus heading back to my car, going down through those three different level of stairs, I called my friend Mal.  He had been texting me during the latter part of the game. I told him about the game and how Speedy was now a Warriors scout.  We imagined Jenkins and Stephen Curry in the same backcourt and joked that we would have to get Warriors jerseys if that happened.  Then I called Tieff while I warmed up the car in the parking lot, talked about the game briefly, then wished him some rest to get better.

Amazingly, I didn't hit any traffic again on the Cross Bronx Expressway (apparently people were in the malls instead) and made my way home with a new frog magnet for the refrigerator.  And yes, that's my Bally sitting next to him.  As I put the frog magnet on top of the refrigerator, I realized I was hungry.   As much as I try to be impartial, I am at heart a Hofstra fan.  And as always, after a good win, I have a celebratory snack.  In this case, it was a bologna and cheese sandwich on a roll.

Food always tastes better after a good live college basketball game...especially after a Hofstra win.

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