The men’s basketball team continued their strong play by defeating American 56-51 in Washington, D.C. on March 1, but upon returning to Sojka Pavilion to face Army in the Patriot League Quarterfinals on March 5, the Bison’s momentum was stalled and the Black Knights were able to come out on top 72-71.
Chris Hass ’16 poured in 15 points against American and the Orange and Blue once again out-rebounded their opponents for their sixth straight win. In the six-game winning streak, the Bison had +86 rebound margin. The well-earned win also meant that the Orange and Blue would finish the regular season with one win over every Patriot League foe. It boosted their record to 16-13 overall and 11-7 in the Patriot League.
Co-captain Cameron Ayers ’14 liked the team’s chances heading into the contest against Army.
“It’s been a long season, but I think we are playing extremely well going into tonight’s game and it couldn’t be at a [more] perfect time,” Ayers said. “I think we are near the end of the process because everyone has bought in and know what we are capable of doing.”
After the regular season came to conclusion this past weekend the Patriot League handed out its regular season awards. Three Bison players were honored. Graduate student Brian Fitzpatrick was named to the Academic All-Patriot League Team, Hass was named to All-Patriot League Third Team and Ayers was named Patriot League Player of the Year in addition to All-Patriot League First Team.
“It’s a true honor that the other coaches in the league respect me like they do because we didn’t finish in first place,” Ayers said. “Without the support of my teammates and coaches, this award wouldn’t have been achievable.”
In the game against Army, the Bison immediately found themselves in a dogfight. They jumped out to a quick 7-0 lead, but fell victim to a 21-3 run on the strength of Army’s three-point shooting abilities. The Orange and Blue went on a run of their own including three consecutive three-pointers by Hass and a ferocious dunk by Corey Starkey ’15 all within three minutes. The Bison rode the Sojka crowd’s enthusiasm to 39-36 halftime lead.
The Orange and Blue scored the first four points of the second half to take a 43-36 lead. After another Bison stop, point guard Steven Kaspar ’15 drove hard to the basket and made his lay-up after a foul was called. Instead of one that would have given the Bison the opportunity to go up 10 points, Kaspar was called for a charge and had to sit due to foul trouble. Kaspar’s foul trouble left John Azzinaro ’17 in charge of running the point.
The Orange and Blue maintained their lead all the way to the final minute. With the ball in their hands, the Bison tried to get the ball in the hands of Ayers, but the pass was intercepted and the Black Knights were able to knock down a three-pointer off of an offensive rebound. Ayers pulled up for a three from the top of the key on the following Bison possession. His jumper hit the front rim and was collected by Fitzpatrick, who got fouled on the put back. Fitzpatrick was able to connect on one of two free throws.
The Black Knights put the ball in the hands of Kyle Wilson, who was able to make a difficult turn-around jump shot. The Bison’s final possession was sloppy and they had to settle for a well-defended corner three attempt from Hass that hit the front of the rim and missed.
The Orange and Blue were able to come on strong in the final half the season to complete the year with a winning record. Fitzpatrick and Ayers concluded their careers as Bison, with Ayers participating in 94 wins over four years, the most of any player in Bison basketball history.