WATERTOWN — The Jefferson Community College men’s basketball team was ready to hand Onondaga Community College just its fourth loss of the season. With six minutes left in Saturday’s game at JCC, the Cannoneers held a five-point lead over OCC but saw that lead melt into a deficit, ultimately resulting in an 81-78 defeat.
It might not be classified as a collapse, but it sure deflated the Cannoneers.
Despite trailing by as much as 13 in the first half, the Cannoneers fought in the second to control the Lazers’ scoring while effectively chipping away at their lead.
But when it came time to close the game out, JCC (14-7 overall) failed to control the pace and the ball.
“I thought we were a little too quick when we were up five, we tried to run it and we didn’t have to,” JCC coach Joe Vaadi said. “We got a couple of good defensive stops when we were up five, we come down and I think those were the two possessions when we threw it away and they hit the two 3-pointers to go up.”
The Cannoneers finished with 30 turnovers to OCC’s 12. Jake Hess, who left the game midway through the first half with an ankle injury, was the only Cannoneer to not turn the ball over.
Twice in the final five minutes, point guard Isiah Murphy overthrew Kyle Nichols waiting in the corner, ending the offensive possession after only a few seconds. Both times the Lazers took advantage of JCC’s frustration by quickly advancing the ball. The first attempt resulted in a wide-open 3-pointer by Latyce Faison.
Murphy, as the team’s point guard, took responsibility for the errors.
“We were just too fast with the basketball, we had the game in our hands,” Murphy said. “I put it on me being the point guard and as a leader, it’s my fault. I’m supposed to slow the game down, waste the clock, but I was probably too hyper and too active.”
Nichols believed he could have positioned himself differently as well. “I have to get myself in better spots so he has an easier pass,” Nichols said. “I have to find a hole in the defense and get there.”
Nichols played 17 minutes off the bench and finished with nine points, his second most of the season. Murphy had 13 points, 10 of which came in the second half.
After a sluggish start, Murphy played more aggressively after halftime.
“The first half I got sneaky fouls so coach didn’t want me to keep playing and pick up anymore,” Murphy said. “So, in the second half I had to come out aggressive and ready to play.”
Murphy needed to do something to offset Onondaga’s guard play. Jakhi Lucas finished with a team-high 34 points and was 7-for-10 from beyond the 3-point line. Latyce wasn’t far off for OCC (21-3), he finished with 27 points, 24 of which came in the second half.
Despite the ending, Vaadi saw plenty of positives from his team.
“We did a lot of good things, we had a lot of good effort, but we have to execute better down the stretch, that’s the bottom line,” Vaadi said.
Vaadi stressed the importance of practice and preparation.
“We need to work more on game-ending situations, being up five with five minutes to go, being down five with five minutes to go. What are we going to do in those situations?” Vaadi said. “We just need to be a little bit more prepared.”