It was a thunderous statement heard throughout the Skyline Conference and the rest of NCAA Division III men’s basketball.
Farmingdale State, which ran to the second round of the NCAA Tournament a year ago, took a step closer to another berth with an impressive 81-69 win over top-seeded SUNY-Old Westbury Thursday in the semifinals of the Skyline tourney.
“We did a good job containing their perimeter players," Rams Coach Erik Smiles said. "Last game those guys really killed us and I thought we did a good job containing them and not allowing them to get in the lane against us and contest their shots. Our whole thing was to force them to take long, low percentage contested shots and we did that. Also we did a great job getting the ball inside and out rebounding them.”
The No. 4 Rams (20-7) lost both regular season meetings to rival Old Westbury (22-4), but turned it on in the postseason. Senior center A.J. Matthews led the way with 30 points, 25 rebounds and 4 blocks.
Matthews was Skyline player of the year in 2012. Despite facing more double teams this season, Matthews still led the conference in scoring, rebounding and blocked shots.
The 7-foot Matthews also leads the nation in rebounds (14.6) and double-doubles (19).
And yet he was snubbed for player of the year. The conference announced its award winners earlier in the day Thursday and Matthews’ performance that night seemed an appropriate answer.
“He is my guy and he works hard every day in practice, goes out every night and outplays everybody in the conference," Smiles said. "So yes, of course I wanted him to get [player of the year]. As for his motivation, it didn’t hurt."
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Host Old Westbury jumped in front 12-5, but the Rams roared back and led 36-19 at the half and never looked back.
Guard Ryan Davis poured in 18 points for Farmingdale and Wilson Molina added 15 off the bench.
The Rams will face host Purchase College, the No. 2 seed, in the title game Saturday at 7 p.m. The winner gets an automatic berth to the NCAA D-III Tournament.
Women Advance: The Farmingdale State women’s basketball team pulled off a similar feat Thursday, upsetting No. 1 Mount St. Mary, 40-29, to advance to the Skyline championship game.
The No. 4 Rams (11-12) were led by Nicky Young’s 13 points and 6 boards. The Rams face No. 2 Purchase on the road Saturday at 4 p.m. An NCAA berth awaits the winner.
Editor's note: Jason Molinet is an adjunct professor at Farmingdale State College.