SARANAC LAKE - Just days after the North Country Community College men's basketball team clinched a berth in the NJCAA Region III playoffs with a win over Clinton on Feb. 6, the Saints found out two more starters would join Brody Douglas as scratches from their lineup.
Douglass suffered a hand fracture earlier in the season, and now, sophomores Jared Heden and Steven Poulter may be lost for the rest of the team's campaign after being diagnosed with mononucleosis.
Competing without those key players, the Saints dropped their final two Region III regular-season games at home over the weekend. They fell 81-71 Saturday to Schnectady and followedwith a 65-52 setback Sunday to the Herkimer Generals, who top the Region III standings and are also ranked eighth in the country in the NJCAA poll.
North Country freshman Michael Boyea drives through Herkimer’s Demetrius Mitchell, right, and Todd Hunt during Sunday’s game on the Saints floor.
(Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)
With a new lineup on the court, NCCC coach Chad LaDue said he was pleased with the Saints effort against two quality opponents.
"Since the start of the season, we've seen four of eight starters go down," LaDue said. "To go out there without 42-percent of our scoring, our guys did a great job this weekend. We have a new group of players out there now, and today, I think we played better than Saturday. I give our guys a lot of credit."
Not all the news that came out of the weekend was bad for the Saints, as sophomore Steven Carder hauled down 17 rebounds. Freshman Michael Boyea also had a strong performance in the loss, scoring 21 points and adding 15 assists.
On Sunday, the Saints stayed close to the Generals during the entire first half, trailing by just six points at the intermission with the score at 31-25. Herkimer eventually pushed its lead to double digits but it took awhile for the Generals to pull away as the Saints cut their deficit to eight points on two occasions.
Ian Henderson paced the Saints with a game-high 16 points, including five 3-pointers. Carder finished with 15 points before fouling out with seven minutes left in the game. The Generals had balance on offense, with three players reaching double figures and a total of 10 players getting in on the scoring. Johnie Davis led the way with 13 points, Mike Thomas added 12 and Todd Hunt chipped in 11 points.
NCCC dropped to 16-10 with the two setbacks, and will wrap up the regular season tonight at home against Paul Smith's College in a makeup game. The Saints will then wait to see who and where they will play when the Region III playoff schedule is announced.
"Coach LaDue said when one man goes down, it's the next man up," Carder said.?"When we lost Brody earlier in the season, our other guys helped pick up the slack. Now, we're two more guys down, and with that situation, we just go and do the best we can do. Nobody on this team is going to quit.
"Our effort is always there," Carder added. "We're not the strongest team, we're not the fastest team, but we'll always battle to the final buzzer."