By Daniel Flores—
(Photo credit: Michelle Pena)
On Tuesday night February 11, 2020 the Passaic County Community College Women’s and Men’s basketball team honored their senior members before the final home game of the season against Region XIX rival, Ocean County Community college.
Prior to the game, the sophomore players honored were Jada Camacho (Liberal Arts major), Cyan Peterson (Nutrition major), and Jehan Shalabi (Engineering major).
PCCC Lady Panthers started the game off taking an early lead 22-20 at the end of the first quarter. They pulled away in the second quarter outscoring Ocean County 32-19. Leading at the half 54-39, the Lady Panthers would not look back as they entered the fourth quarter up 82-64. However, it did get close in the fourth quarter when Ocean County mounted a comeback but the Lady Panthers prevailed and came out victorious with a win 95-88.
The Lady Panthers got revenge on Ocean County who had handed the Lady Panthers their only loss of the season thus far 76-69 on December 12, 2019. Women’s team Head Coach Teya Eaton shared her thoughts after winning the game. “It was a great win for our ladies and overall program. We were able to beat the team who beat us and win the conference at the same time.”
Sabrina DeFreese paced the way for the Lady Panthers with 31 points, 10 rebounds, and 6 assists. Lyliana Daly scored 23 points along with 6 rebounds and Linda Brea achieved a double-double with 13 points and 10 assists.
The men’s team honored sophomores, Amir Blake (Exercise Science), Gabe Silvera (Business Major), EJ Jefferson (Business Accounting Major), and Brian Carabello before the game.
The Panthers opened up with a 19-5 lead shortly into the first half. Gabe Silvera made a long three pointer to put the Panthers on the board. At the half, the Panthers were in front 50-41 but their lead quickly escaped and the game became tied late in the second half. Down the stretch, the Panthers would be able to hold off Ocean County to win the game 103-94.
Destine Holt-Virgil led the way for the Panthers with 29 points, 10 rebounds, and 7 assists nearly having a triple-double. EJ Jefferson tallied 21 points and 13 rebounds. Godly Marc had 21 points as well to go with 8 steals and Gabe Silvera chipped in with 12 points.
Following the win the Panthers clinched a playoff berth in the NJCAA Division III tournament and eliminated Ocean County from playoff contention. Men’s head coach Anthony Virgil spoke on the clinching a playoff spot. “It’s always rewarding to make the playoffs after such a long grind during the regular season. At the start of the season we set the bar fairly high for our team, and making the playoffs is always one of the steps we set out to do. But its only one step now that we are in there the next goal is to make it to the region championship game, and then the national tournament. It won’t be easy but we will be ready for whoever we face in the first round.”
Both head coaches spoke about the importance of PCCC students and faculty coming out to support the team. “Being a former student athlete here at PCCC, it’s no better feeling when the days after a good home game, when you can be approached by students or staff around the college and receive praise for the work you did on the court. During games a lot of guys don’t really pay attention to who’s in the stands so those moments give you a great confidence boost because you know you’re playing for more than just yourself and your team. You’re representing the entire PCCC community,” Coach Virgil said. “Our men and women wear the PCCC uniform with Pride. It is great when the entire college community join in on the efforts of being a proud PANTHER. It also brings spirit to our campus,” Coach Eaton said.
The Panthers and Lady Panthers will be getting ready for the playoffs. Coach Virgil and Coach Eaton shared what the teams will need to work on to be successful in the playoffs. “The team has to work on their defense because defense wins basketball games,” Coach Eaton said. “The key to our success in the playoffs will be our ability to play at a high level for 40 mins. Limiting mistakes, and playing to our strengths. We have to commit to playing sound team defense, trying to keep the opposing teams off the foul line and at the same time keeping our guys out of foul trouble. Offensively, consistency is key. Cant waste any trips, basketball is a game of runs and the team that can sustain their run for longer usually comes out on top and I don’t see any reason that can’t be us,” Coach Virgil said.