The CCRI men’s basketball team entered last week’s NJCAA National Tournament as the 12th seed and went on to go 0-2 on the big stage.
The Knights fell to No. 4 Richland on the first day by a score of 91-75. Despite taking a 10-point lead in the first half, CCRI was unable to keep pace down the stretch as Richland secured the victory.
CCRI’s Elijah Lewis led all scorers with 32 points in the loss, while teammate Mitchel Noresca added 12 points and 12 rebounds. Reece Bullock added 10 points as well.
The Knights then fell to Columbus 109-93 the following day.
Mikey Gamble led CCRI with 26 points and six rebounds. Tyreek Davis added a career-high 23 points for the Knights, while Noresca added 13 and Lewis 11. Noresca finished the season as CCRI’s all-time leader in single-season rebounds with 523, and also led the nation.
“It was a great experience and one they’ll always remember. It was only my third time (going to nationals) in 14 years, so it was quite an accomplishment for them, to win the East and have a chance to play in the tournament,” said CCRI coach Rick Harris.
Although the Knights gave it their all, the rise in competition was just a little too much, according to Harris.
“We got beat, but we competed. We got some points but we could not stop our opponents. We usually have two or three athletes on the floor at a time, these other teams though, they had five athletes on the floor at all times. We guard on the inside, they hit the perimeter shot, we guard outside, they drive in the lane, get the put backs. It was an eye opener for the kids,” said Harris. “We had to really control the pace and tempo of the game, the things we talk about when we’re back here, we try to control the opponent and make them uncomfortable. That’s what those teams did to us, they made us play faster than we wanted and made us uncomfortable. I was proud of their performance though, the effort was there and they gave it their best shot. We left the last day with our heads held high.”
CCRI will say bye to a handful of key sophomores, including Lewis, Jeremy Remigio and Dylan Durante.
Harris will miss his veteran leaders and is excited to see what this year’s freshman do next winter.
“You always miss (your sophomores), but that’s what junior college is, it comes with the territory. I’ll miss Dylan Durante, I have a great relationship with him. I’ll miss Elijah, Jeremy, those guys played for me for one year, but I’ll miss them,” said Harris. “They were the backbone of our team so now we have to hope our freshmen will become leaders. I look forward to seeing how the freshmen develop during the offseason.”