Photo Courtesy LaGuardia Community College
The Championship Men’s Team.
BY DAVID RUSSELL
LaGuardia Community College saw its men’s and women’s basketball teams win CUNY titles for the first time on Friday at Borough of Manhattan Community College.
Championships are always nice to dream about, but even on day one of the program it would have been tough to imagine both teams winning a CUNY title in only the third year of the program. “I wish I could say I said that, but I didn’t,” said athletic director Brian Goldstein. “The first two years were about stabilizing the program. The third year was about making sure the student-athletes had a different focus than just basketball. We worked with both coaches in the preseason to talk about what it is that is really important, and what’s really important is them graduating.”
First, the women’s team led wire-to-wire in a 65-54 win over Bronx Community College in the title game. It was Bronx that eliminated LaGuardia from the CUNY playoffs the previous two seasons. “To do it against the Bronx, that is the best feeling ever,” said CUNYAC Player of the Year Kailyn Richburg. “It’s a sweet revenge.”
“Kailyn has come a long way in her career from where she was at the beginning to where she is now,” said head coach Anthony Alfaro. “She only truly believes in what we told her these last couple of months. Her biggest turnaround was the last couple of months, where she began to play better defense and realized that her game has to be complete for her to move on. And she bought in.”
Richburg was also CUNYAC Tournament MVP. The guard had 10 points, five steals, and four assists against Bronx. Marika Gordon scored 15 points and added 17 rebounds. Sarah Edwards had 12 points and 13 rebounds. Lexis Valentine drained four three-pointers on her way to 14 points.
The men followed with a 75-72 win over BMCC. LaGuardia blew an early 15-point lead but came back from nine down in the second half. “I wasn’t concerned,” said head coach Ben Chobhaphand. “With the things we went through during the season, I knew we were going to prevail because we stick to the script.”
After squandering the lead, the Red Hawks had to make sure to maintain their focus. “Some of my teammates had their heads down and I just kept telling them to just keep your heads up we got it,” said tournament MVP Ryan Yearwood. “This is what we do. We’re always put in situations like this in practice. Just keep pushing. It starts on the defensive end, so get stops.”
The Red Hawks led by seven with 40 seconds to go, but BMCC cut the lead to three with seconds to go. Neil Viera’s potential game-tying three was no good and Laguardia held on to win.
While the women’s team dominated the regular season, the men had its ups and downs. “We had a different starting lineup at least 20 times because we’re teaching young student-athletes to be men, committed, on time, working hard every day in practice,” Chobhaphand said.
Yearwood had 21 points, six assists, four steals, three blocks and three rebounds. Matthew Newton scored 16 points, Winston Egwu added 13, and Jordan Littlejohn added 10. Sonny Kadisha had 13 points and 10 rebounds.
“As soon as I stepped foot on campus, I knew what we came to do, I know what our goal was and we got here,” Yearwood said.