This past Friday, the Vassar men’s basketball team fell to the Union College Dutchmen by four points in a nail-biting contest with a final score of 79-75. Then, despite their best efforts, the Brewers were unable to make a comeback against the Skidmore Thoroughbreds on Saturday, and took their second loss of the weekend.
The team fought until the final buzzer against the Dutchmen, just barely missing their shot at victory. Each team went on multiple scoring runs, both leading the scoreboard at multiple points in the game. Just minutes into the match, the Brewers found themselves in a 7-2 lead. Although Union soon fought back to lead the game 17-16, they were matched by junior guard and captain Jesse Browne, who sunk a three-pointer to put Vassar on top once again at 19-17. Before the end of the first half, Browne scored eight more points for the Brewers alongside sophomore captain Alex Seff, who scored Vassar’s last four points of the half.
After halftime, both teams continued to wrestle for the lead, as Union went on an eight-point run at the opening of the second half. Though the scoreboard read 38-37 in the Dutchmen’s favor, Seff drained another four points, putting Vassar up 41-38. But the next few minutes saw Union score ten unanswered points, securing a lead once again at 48-41. Junior guard Tony Caletti worked with freshman guard Owen Murray to sink a three-pointer, while also assisting multiple teammates as the game fired on, pulling Vassar within three points of Union at 52-49. VC battled to keep the gap from widening. In the last minute and 14 seconds of the game, the Brewers were only down by two points, following the Dutchmen 71-69. Union pushed ahead as the end of the game neared, but Browne found the net on another three-pointer, putting Vassar behind only 75-72. Caletti followed his footsteps, sinking another three-pointer with only five seconds left in the match, pushing the Brewers to only one point behind their rivals. But in the final five seconds, the Dutchmen answered the shot, earning their own three points and winning the match by four.
Browne led the Brewers’ scoring efforts throughout the competition, earning 22 points for the Burgundy and Gray. He was joined by Seff and Murray, who earned 19 points and 11 points for the team respectively. “Jesse Browne and Alex Seff are reliable scorers for our team,” noted Head Coach Brian Dunne. “They were both really consistent forces against Union this past weekend.” Vassar outrebounded Union 39 to 35 and earned higher shot percentages, making 53.8 percent of two-point shots and 44.4 percent of three-point shots. However, they fell to the opposing team in both turnover and steals statistics.
Despite not pulling out the win, the team recognized the game as a good stepping-stone in the right direction. “The team was definitely bummed that we lost,” conveyed Browne. “But we all recognize that we are taking steps in the right direction and continuing to get better with every game that we play.”
By losing so narrowly to such a competitive team, the Brewers believe they can use this opportunity to improve their play. Caletti also elaborated on using this game as an opportunity to drive the team. “Friday’s loss was a tough one, but I, along with the rest of our team, was really proud of our effort. We clawed back and stuck together through the adversity of the game. The team showed a lot of heart to come back and almost steal the win.”
Moving on from the game against Union, the entire team came out the next day ready to fight against the Skidmore Thoroughbreds and earn the win for Senior Day. Vassar honored its three seniors: captain Mickey Adams, Elijah Winston and Ryan Huegel. The ceremony opened with Winston’s sister singing in honor of their final year. “Each of these three seniors have shown strong consistency in their work over the past four years playing,” recalled Coach Dunne. “They all have a strong passion for our program that truly shows.”
The seniors as a whole have been a hard-working, motivating class and have set the bar high for everybody else. “Having played with the seniors for the past three seasons, I have come to rely on them on and off the court,” Caletti shared. “Their leadership will be greatly missed next year. Each of them bring a very unique element to the team.”
The seniors have led their underclassmen throughout the past four years by example, demonstrating hard work, determination and grit. “The seniors have always worked the hardest,” Browne articulated. “They set a great example for everyone else in the weight room, practices and games.” But their impacts on the team do not necessarily end here. Browne said confidently, “They push themselves and others to be the best that they can be. That will have a lasting legacy on our team.”
Adams has been a consistent player for the Brewers throughout his tenure. He ranks fourth on the team in a multitude of statistics, including total points (107), average points per game (5.6), field goals scored (42), rebounds(63) and minutes played (370). Similarly, his 18 offensive rebounds earn him second best on the team. “Mickey is somebody that the underclassmen always look up to on and off the court,” Seff disclosed. “He always shows a competitive spirit and pushes us to work as hard as we can.”
Winston and Huegel have strong, impactful roles on the team as well. Their teammates acknowledge that they have a presence that will not be unrecognized when they graduate. “Elijah is a constantly positive force on our team,” Caletti praised. “But he is also willing to tell the team the difficult things we need to hear, even when it is something we don’t want to hear. Ryan brings the same attitude to practice and each of our games. Both of them have constantly given their all to our team.”
As the game against the Thoroughbreds began, Winston won the jump ball right off the bat. Then as Skidmore tried to pull away with a 6-2 run, Adams reversed the efforts with a contribution of back-to-back layups. For the next seven minutes of the game, neither of the teams was able to gain a lead of greater than two points.
In the early beginning of the game, Vassar and Skidmore found themselves tied ten times, dispersed throughout six changes in the lead. But the Brewers’ lead of 22-20 in the first half was the last time they were ahead in the match. Despite the players’ best efforts, Skidmore maintained a double-digit lead throughout the entire second half.
In attempts to change the momentum, Seff scored two jump shots and a three-pointer, along with a jump shot by Caletti, to break up a 15-5 run by Skidmore. Seff won 14 out of the next 17 points for Vassar.
Seff has started in every one of the team’s 20 games so far his sophomore season, totaling 569 minutes. He is one of the most consistent scorers on the current roster. “Coming into this season, I’ve worked on my jump shot,” told Seff, “so that I could become more of an all-around player and a scoring threat from anywhere on the court.”
Seff is currently averaging 15.6 points per game and led the Brewers’ scoring efforts in their game against Skidmore, earning an impressive 31 points and 19 in their game against Union. Seff leads the team in scoring, assists, field goals, free throws, defensive rebounds and steals. “Alex plays hard each minute he is on the court,” Coach Dunne relayed. “He is our engine and makes plays that help us to succeed.”
Even with the strong performance from Seff, the Thoroughbreds eventually claimed a 97-73 win. After this Liberty League battle, Skidmore advanced its conference record to 10-2 and currently sits at the No. 2 spot. Meanwhile, Vassar fell to a 1-11 record in the league.
Despite the losses, the team remains confident and happily looks upon the seniors and their contribution to the program. Adams shared, “My four years at Vassar playing basketball have been some of the most rewarding of my life. Every year, I’ve met new and great people and have made friends that I know will be with me for the rest of my life.”
Adams continued, “Being a part of this program has taught me accountability, respect and love in a way that only sports can do. As we wind down here and I only have a few games left, I’m hoping to enjoy every second of this because I know when it’s over I’ll miss it more than I can imagine.”
The team is optimistic about their remaining games coming up. They will compete against Saint Lawrence for the second time this Friday, Feb. 10 away in Canton, NY.