BY DAVID RUSSELL
The LaGuardia CC Red Hawks are the City University of New York’s (CUNY) champions for the second year in a row after an 82-69 win over the BMCC Panthers in Manhattan on Friday night.
Mahlik Sherlock was named MVP for his 23-point, nine-rebound performance in the title game.
“I’ve been waiting for this for a year now,” Sherlock said. “When I knew we were going to get here, I knew that I had to do what I had to do to get this championship back to where it belongs.”
Sherlock played two seasons ago for head coach Ben Chobhaphand, but sat out last season when the Red Hawks won the first conference title in school history.
“He just drank the Kool-Aid,” Chobhaphand said. “He believed in what we were doing and he told me at the end of the season last year— he promised we’d get another one.”
The six-foot-six-inch sophomore credited his coach for his development.
“He’s changed my whole basketball career around,” Sherlock said. “He’s helped develop me to be the player that I am today and I love him.”
LaGuardia had to win in hostile territory as BMCC advanced to the title game on its home court. The Red Hawks fell behind 8-0, but fought back and only trailed by two at halftime.
“I told them in the locker room [that] it’s a 40-minute game,” Chobhaphand said. “A lot of you guys haven’t been here, so just weather the storm, I promise you, stick to what we do, we’ll be alright.”
The Red Hawks took a 53-44 lead, but BMCC fought back to tie the game at 62 with 6:30 remaining.
“Once you get to the 10-minute mark, it’s another game,” Chobhaphand said. “You get to the five-minute mark, it’s a new game. That’s how we practice.”
LaGuardia silenced the raucous BMCC fans with a 20-7 run to end the game. It was a team effort as Koron Williams scored 14 points and grabbed eight rebounds, Carl Balthazar scored 12 points and hauled in eight rebounds, Daniel Hernandez scored 11 points and added eight rebounds and Leon Antwi scored 19 points and iced the game at the free throw line.
LaGuardia not only took the title for a second year in a row, but did so with a mostly different roster from last year.
“Coaching junior college basketball, every year is a new team,” said Chobhapand, who previously played at Queensborough CC and coached at Forest Hills High School.
Athletic director Brian Goldstein credits a coaching staff that has led the program to a pair of CUNY titles in its first four seasons.
“I’m just so proud of what Ben, Anthony Dulin, Hector Nunez, Rasaad Thompson and Talik Brown have done here,” Goldstein said.
“They’ve really created an incredible core, so that even when we lose players to injury, someone else steps up.”