By Greg Stevenson
The weight of a five-year title drought was lifted off the collective shoulders of the men’s basketball team when the Bison hoisted the Patriot League Championship trophy in the air March 11 in front of the third largest crowd in Sojka Pavilion history. The Orange and Blue defeated Lafayette 72-57.
“It was surreal,” Mike Muscala ’13 said after the Patriot League title game. “It was the best moment of my basketball career.”
Early on, Lafayette seemed poised to pull off another upset on the road in the Patriot League Tournament. Defensively for the Bison, the physical play of the Leopards’ Jared Mintz posed match-up problems. His 13 first-half points kept the Bison advantage to just five at halftime.
Normally the defensive stopper for the Bison, Bryan Cohen ’12 set the tone early for the Orange and Blue on offense, scoring the first six points for the team on its opening two possessions. After Cohen’s run, Muscala took over, contributing 13 of his team-high 18 points in the opening half.
In the second half, the stingy defense of the Bison prevented Lafayette from making an extended run and taking the lead. The inside presence of Muscala and Joe Willman ’13 limited Mintz to no field goals and just three points in the second half. Timely baskets down the stretch by G.W. Boon ’11 and Cameron Ayers ’14 gave the Orange and Blue the signature victory to cap off a historic season.
As the final seconds ticked off the clock, the thousands of orange-clad fans that had filled Sojka Pavilion stormed the court in celebration of a title five years in the making.
All 14 players as well as head coach Dave Paulsen advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the first time.
The three seniors, Darryl Shazier ’11, Boon and Stephen Tyree ’11, all of whom had been recruited by previous head coach, Pat Flannery, finally filled the shoes of past Bison who had won consecutive conference titles in 2005 and 2006.
For all three of them, it was their final game in Sojka Pavilion after an entire career of suiting up in a Bison uniform. But the memories from winning the title on their home court will never be forgotten.
“Winning the championship was absolutely unbelievable,”
Boon said. “Hearing that buzzer sound off and seeing the crowd rush the court to celebrate with us was amazing. It was easily one of the most exciting and gratifying moments of my life.”