Men’s Basketball Team Has Solid '04-'05 Season
Head Coach Kelly Williams reports that the men’s basketball team has much to be proud of this season. No, the Vikings didn’t win the Region 19 title. But they did win the GSAC title and for the first time under Williams, all players were eligible for both semesters. “That represents a good effort academically and on the court,” Williams observed.
Competition was as fierce as ever in the region. Williams noted that the team’s winning record of 18-13 was a real achievement. He praised sophomores Miroslaw Babirarz and Craig Phillips for their leadership as co-captains. “They really kept the squad together,” he said.
Other starters included Reggie Kelly, Anthony DaBronzo, Sharif High, Mantas Armonas and Blake Craft. The team also got help from Clinton Barnhill, Jahrell Benson, Tom DeStefano, Josh Hernandez, Tom Gutowski, Marcus Johnson, Markesh McNair and Reggie Taylor.
The Vikings played numerous exciting games including a 97-94 overtime win against Atlantic on Dec. 7 and an 86-84 overtime win against Camden on Feb. 1 when the Vikings came back from six points down with one minute left to tie the game and force the OT.
The last home game against Ocean County College on February 22 provided a chance to say goodbye to the sophomore players with a 77-59 win. And with that victory, Mercer clinched the GSAC title. According to Williams, “They really played to their ability that night.”
Next came the Region 19 tournament, with the Vikings facing Del Tech. The men lost 88-73 despite a solid team effort. (Del Tech went on to lose to Lackawanna in the regional final; Lackawanna lost to the Community College of Rhode Island in the Northeast District game.)
Kelly and DaBronzo were named to the GSAC and Region 19 first teams.
The Vikings’ season was notable in several other ways. For the first time, the games were televised on Ch. 23, providing the team with a real morale booster. “It was great to have the games recorded for television,” said Williams. “People would let the players know that they had seen them.”
This was also the first full season for the MCCC Cheer Dance Club, which cheered from the sidelines at every home game. “They added to the college atmosphere and the whole experience of playing with the team,” Coach Williams said. The players aos welcomed them. Williams gave the cheerleaders flowers and a pizza party at the last home game. “I didn’t have much chance to express my appreciation during the season. Even when we struggled they were still there trying to help us out.” He credited staff advisor Tonia Harrison with a great job.
According to Williams, there is never a real end to the season. “It’s pre-season already. The process starts all over again.” He noted that recruiting is getting easier because high school players and coaches have come to know the reputation of the MCCC program. "They know how I run my program – which is academics first, basketball second. We help the players with both,” he said.
Losing five key sophomores – Barbirarz, Phillips, Kelly, DaBronzo and High – Williams will need to retool for next year. Two particularly promising freshmen, Craft and Armonas, should serve to anchor the 2005-06 squad.
Williams has been in touch with several players from last year’s squad. He reports that Dwayne Washington just completed his junior season playing for Elizabeth City State University (NC), Stephen Butler played at Livingstone College (NC), and Stephen Taylor contributed at Rutgers Newark.
his appreciation to his assistants this season, including Mike
Falco, who does a lot of leg work for the team, Gary
Williams, who focuses on academics, and Greg Grant
and Scott Nance, who work with players on the court and scout