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College Basketball:
Rutgers-Camden Week In Review

Monday, February 23, 2004

By Mike Ballard
RutgersCamden Sports Correspondent

Erin James (Gloucester, NJ/Gloucester) and Gene Mergenthal (Sicklerville, NJ/Highland)

Two of the top point guards in Rutgers-Camden basketball history made their final collegiate games memorable as Erin James tied her career high with 27 points in her final home game and Gene Mergenthal went out with a career-high 28 points in the final game of his career.

Both players completed their careers with back-to-back 100-assist seasons, with James being the only female ever to log 100 assists twice at Rutgers-Camden, and Mergenthal being one of only two males to do so. Both also finished second on the career assist list for their respective programs.

In another similarity, this week’s Co-Raptor of the Week honor is the second one this season for each player. James shared the honor Nov. 24 and Mergenthal shared it Dec. 1. Each also won the honor once outright this season, with James winning for Dec. 29 and Mergenthal for Feb. 2.

Celebrating Senior Night Feb. 19 against Montclair State, James collected the third 27-point game of her Raptor career – the second time she’s done it against the Red Hawks. She also added nine assists to move into second place on the women’s basketball program career list. In her final game overall, James suffered a first-half ankle injury at The College of New Jersey Feb. 21, but not before she added three more assists to finish at 318 for her career. She collected 139 this season, the third-highest single-season total in program history, and also finished with 871 points in her three-year Raptor career.

Mergenthal was shortchanged when his Senior Night game against Montclair State was terminated by a fight, but he went out with a bang in his final Raptor game at The College of New Jersey. He exploded for 23 second-half points to finish with a career-high 28. He finished his four-year career with 895 points and was second on the career lists for both assists (317) and steals (150). He was fifth in single-season assists (112) and fourth in steals (64).


Thurs., Feb. 19 Montclair State University 83, Rutgers-Camden 80
Sat., Feb. 21 The College of New Jersey 73, Rutgers-Camden 70

In a rebuilding year and a season of close calls, the Lady Raptors ended with a pair of three-point defeats against teams headed for the New Jersey Athletic Conference playoffs. The Raptors lost their final home game, 83-80, to Montclair State Feb. 19 and were edged in their final game, 73-70, at The College of New Jersey Feb. 21. The games marked the fourth and fifth times the Raptors lost by three or fewer points this season: the difference between a winning year and their five games under .500.


In the Lady Raptors’ final game, junior guard/forward Theresa DiMedio scored 17 of her career-high 24 points in the second half and also added a career-high 12 rebounds to power The College of New Jersey over Rutgers-Camden, 73-70, in a conference game in Ewing.

With Rutgers-Camden holding a 64-63 lead, DiMedio hit a jumper with 7:20 remaining to give TCNJ the seventh and final lead change of the night, sparking a six-point Lion run. DiMedio scored the first two baskets in that run, which gave TCNJ a 69-64 lead.

Rutgers-Camden closed the deficit to 72-70 and had the opportunity to tie the game at 73, but missed a three-point attempt in the last few seconds.

In a first half which featured five lead changes and two ties, TCNJ took a 40-37 halftime lead behind a balanced attack which featured nine points from senior center Adrienne Warner and eight from sophomore guard Tiara Simpkins. For the Lady Raptors, junior center Crystal Lucas (West Deptford, NJ/West Deptford) collected 10 points in the opening half, while senior guard Erin James (Gloucester, NJ/Gloucester) added nine.

James, however, injured her left ankle on a collision under the basket with 3:15 remaining in the first half and didn’t return. She finished her day with the nine points, two rebounds, three assists and two steals. She finished her three-year Raptor career with 871 points and 318 assists, second on the school’s all-time assist list. She also closed the year with 139 assists, the third-highest single-season total in school history.

In addition to DiMedio, who notched her first career double-double, the Lions received 17 points from Warner, one of four TCNJ seniors playing in their final regular-season home game. Simpkins finished with 10 points, while senior forward/center Liz Martin collected 15 rebounds.

The Lady Raptors’ attack was paced by sophomore forward Megan Rulon (Sewell, NJ/Clearview Regional), who collected 18 points and 11 rebounds to log her 17th double-double of the season. Lucas finished with 15 points, while sophomore forward Karen Carter (Pennsauken, NJ/Pennsauken) added 11 points and eight rebounds.

Rulon also blocked three shots to finish her season with 63 blocks, the top total in the NJAC. She entered the week tied for 20th in the country among all Division III players in blocks per game (2.5) and ended her season at 2.52 blocks per game. She finished 36th nationally in blocked shots (2.1) last season when she blocked 55 shots as a freshman.

The Lady Raptors’ Senior Night game against Montclair State was moved back one day to Feb. 19 so that head coach Jackie Trakimas could be inducted into the South Jersey Basketball Hall of Fame on Feb. 18. The new Hall of Famer saw her club lose a heart-breaker against the Red Hawks as freshman center Stephanie Machin scored off a putback with 30 seconds remaining to break a tie game and spark Montclair State to an 83-80 victory over Rutgers-Camden.

Machin’s score came moments after the Lady Raptors’ freshman guard Kelly Stafford (Gloucester, NJ/Gloucester) tied the game at 80-80 with a layup. That tie was the seventh of the night, but Machin notched the last of her team-high 19 points to give the Red Hawks an 82-80 lead. Montclair State tacked on its final point on a foul shot by senior guard Pam Barone.

The game marked the final home contest for James, who tied her career high with 27 points before fouling out late in the game. James also added a game-high nine assists as she raised her career total to 315, moving into second place in the school’s record book past Tamara Carey (1991-95), who had 313 assists. James tied her career high of 27 points set against Montclair State Feb. 2, 2002 and tied earlier this season against Keystone College on Dec. 17.

With the Raptors holding a 49-47 lead, Montclair State sophomore center Amanda Mullaney went on her own personal scoring spree, collecting four consecutive field goals to lift the Red Hawks to a 56-49 lead. Montclair State never trailed the rest of the night, although the Lady Raptors tied the game at 78-78 and 80-80 on shots by Stafford.

The two teams traded the lead three times and were tied on four occasions in the opening half, with the Lady Raptors knotting the halftime score at 36-36 as Carter was fouled and made three free throws with no time on the clock.

James notched 15 first-half points for the Raptors, while Rulon had 10 points and nine rebounds. For Montclair State, sophomore guard Amy Snyder, senior guard Dyette Dillard and sophomore forward Shikeena Lynard each had seven first-half points. Sophomore forward Ebony Allen finished the game second on the Red Hawks in scoring with 13 points, while tying Barone with her team-high nine rebounds. Barone, Snyder and Mullaney each finished with 11 points.

In addition to James, Rulon had 14 points and 10 rebounds, Carter notched 14 points and Stafford had 12. Sophomore guard Carmen Zimmitt (Woodstown, NJ/Woodstown) collected nine points and a career-high 10 rebounds.


MEN’S BASKETBALL (5-19/2-10)

Wed., Feb. 18 vs. Montclair State University, suspended (no game)
Sat., Feb. 21 The College of New Jersey 87, Rutgers-Camden 63

The Scarlet Raptors’ final week of the season was a memorable one, in more ways than one. In their final home game, an altercation broke out under the basket with 4:03 remaining in the first half, forcing the suspension and, later, cancellation, of their game against Montclair State. The Red Hawks were leading, 37-19, at the time, but the game wasn’t completed after Montclair State was eliminated from NJAC playoff chances by an 80-78 loss against New Jersey City University Feb. 21. If Montclair had won that game, it would have forced the suspended game to be completed, as the Red Hawks would have needed to win that game for a playoff berth.

In the one game that was played, sophomore forward Scott Findlay scored 13 of his 15 points and grabbed eight of his 13 rebounds in the first half to stake The College of New Jersey to a 17-point halftime lead, and the Lions went on to defeat Rutgers-Camden, 87-63, in Ewing Feb. 21.

Finlay scored eight of the Lions’ first 11 points as TCNJ took an 11-5 lead after the Raptors held their lone lead of the day at 3-2. Rutgers-Camden never came closer than five points (14-9) the rest of the way.

By halftime, TCNJ held a 41-24 lead as Finlay had 13 points and junior guard Derick Grant had 10. Finlay also notched eight first-half rebounds, while junior center Derek Brown added seven.

For the Raptors, junior guard Sean Smith (Mt. Holly, NJ/Burlington Township) had seven first-half points on his way to 10.

Senior guard Gene Mergenthal (Sicklerville, NJ/Highland) had a huge second-half outburst to finish with a career-high 28 points for the Scarlet Raptors. Playing in his final Rutgers-Camden game, Mergenthal scored 23 points in the second half as he passed his career high of 27, scored at Philadelphia Biblical University Feb. 5.

Mergenthal finished his four-year Raptor career with 895 points, 317 assists (second in the school record books) and 150 steals (second all-time). He completed his senior year with 112 assists (the fifth-highest single-season total in program history) and 64 steals (fourth highest).

Junior guard Mike Snyder finished with a team-high 19 points for the Lions, including 15 in the second half. Junior guards Grant and Kyle Burke added 15 and 13 points, respectively, for the Lions. Sophomore center Jody Crowley collected 12 points and nine rebounds. Brown also finished with nine rebounds, while Burke added eight.

TCNJ held a commanding 59-34 advantage off the boards. The Lions shot 45.2 percent from the floor (33-for-73), while the Raptors were only 27.5 (19-for-69).

In addition to Mergenthal and Sean Smith, the Raptors received 11 points from junior forward Mike Hopson (Gloucester, NJ/Gloucester). Freshman guard/forward Dane Nicholson (Pleasantville, NJ/Holy Spirit) led the team with seven rebounds.

BASEBALL (0-0/0-0)

Thurs., Feb. 26 at Catholic University 2:30 p.m.
Sat., Feb. 28 Wesley College 1 p.m.

The Rutgers-Camden baseball team, coming off a year in which it captured the ECAC Metro championship, opens its season Feb. 26 with a 2:30 p.m. game at Catholic University in Washington, D.C. The Raptors play their home opener at Campbell’s Field Feb. 28 with a 1 p.m. start against Wesley College.

©2004 South Jersey Sports Online Inc.