NYACK, N.Y. (Nov. 8, 2013) – Sophomore Nate Stitchell (Coventry, R.I. / Coventry) showcased an incredible improvement from his impressive rookie season as the Mercy College men's basketball team battled Nyack College in the 2013-14 season opener on Friday night, falling 87-71.
Nyack begins the season 1-0 while Mercy starts out at 0-1.
The Mavericks shot 41 percent from the field and hit 44 percent of their three-pointers, but the Warriors held the slight edge with 48 percent shooting from the field and 50 percent on three-pointers, also hitting five more free throws in seven more attempts.
It took both teams some time to settle as Nyack hit just one basket over the first two minutes, but the scoring picked up quickly from that point. Stitchell got things started with a strip steal at halfcourt and immediately drew a blocking call to set up junior Terrance Murchie (Franklin Square, N.Y. / H. Frank Carey) for a wide-open three-pointer, followed by a smooth 15-foot jumper by senior LeBrandon Smith Jamaica, N.Y. / Archbishop Molloy) for the 5-2 lead.
The Warriors scored nine unanswered points to get back out to an 11-5 lead, but the Mavericks slowly built up momentum and before long took control of the game. Mercy really hit stride on a fast break when senior P.J. Walters (Hempstead, N.Y. / Wheaton College) found sophomore Jordan Lessane (Mount Vernon, N.Y. / Mount Vernon) with a behind-the-back pass and a blocking foul was called, along with cries for goaltending from the Mercy supporters. The Mavericks quickly overcame the slight with Walters nailing a three-pointer from the top of the arc as Mercy ran out to a 22-18 lead with just under 10 minutes remaining in the first half.
The Mavericks increased the lead to five at 27-22 at the 9:02 on a pull-up three-pointer by Stitchell, but the Warriors stepped up their game over the next three minutes, tying things up at 32-32 and taking the lead shortly after. Senior Chaz Morrish (Douglaston, N.Y. / St. Mary's) hit a two-step floater in the lane to trim the deficit to two points with 2:36 left to play and Stitchell followed that with another strip steal and foul call on the other end to put the Mavericks back in front, 38-37. The sophomore drew yet another foul on the inbounds pass and stepped back up to the line, again hitting 1-of-2 free throws, but Nyack would go on to score the final six points of the half to take a 43-39 lead into the break.
Mercy battled back early in the half as Stitchell converted an and-one opportunity at 17:41 and senior Kirk Bailey (Freeport, N.Y. / St. Mary's) tied the score at 48-48 with a pair of free throws. Despite committing a whopping seven fouls in the opening four minutes of the half to put the Mavericks into the 1-and-1 bonus, the Warriors responded by scoring 10 unanswered points to surge into the lead.
The Mavericks were able to cut the deficit back to two points at 56-54 with 10 minutes remaining in the game, but three straight charge calls fouled both Bailey and senior Olajide Keshinro (Brooklyn, N.Y./ SUNY Cobleskill) out of the game with over five minutes to play, leaving the Mercy rotation thin in the paint. Stitchell led a late rally that trimmed the margin back to seven, but Nyack took control from that point as Smith would also foul out and the Warriors went on to the 16-point victory.
Stitchell led the Mavericks with a career-high 18 points, making six assists and five steals as he made more trips to the free-throw line (10-of-15) than he did all of last season. Smith and Walters both scored 14 points apiece, with Walters going a perfect 2-for-2 from beyond the arc. Bailey pulled down eight rebounds in just 18 minutes of action while Keshinro added seven in 23 minutes.
Sophomore Chris Hampton poured in 26 points thanks in large part to 6-of-8 shooting from beyond the arc as four other Warriors also scored in double-digits. Nyack outrebounded Mercy, 45-29, and junior Dante Agnew dished out eight assists in just 18 minutes while junior Nick Moore blocked three shots.
Head Coach Adam Parmenter and the Mavericks will head to Caldwell College (0-1) on Wednesday,