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College Basketball:
Raptor of the Week: Sydney Francis

Monday, February 19, 2007

By Mike Ballard
RutgersCamden Sports Correspondent

Sydney Francis (Camden, NJ/Woodrow Wilson)

Senior forward Sydney Francis closes his collegiate career with his fourth Raptor of the Week honor this season after collecting a double-double in both of his final two games. He finished the season with a bang, notching a career-high 31 points and adding a game-high 12 rebounds in a win over Kean University Feb. 17. Earlier in the week he had 12 points and 11 rebounds against The College of New Jersey (Feb. 15). Francis finished his senior season with eight double-doubles, while leading the team in both scoring (14.2 ppg) and rebounding (8.4 rpg). He also captured Raptor of the Week honors on Nov. 20, Dec. 4 and Jan. 22.

MEN’S BASKETBALL (6-19 overall/ 2-11 NJAC)

Thurs. 15 The College of New Jersey 70, Rutgers-Camden 56
Sat. 17 Rutgers-Camden 86, Kean University 77

Rutgers-Camden seniors Sydney Francis (Camden, NJ/Woodrow Wilson) and Dane Nicholson (Pleasantville, NJ/Holy Spirit) helped the Scarlet Raptors finish their season on a very high note.

Francis, playing in his last game at Rutgers-Camden, scored a career-high 31 points to lift the Scarlet Raptors over Kean University, 86-77, in the final regular-season game for both New Jersey Athletic Conference teams Feb. 17. That huge win came on the heels of a 70-56 loss at The College of New Jersey Feb. 15. Those two results vaulted TCNJ into the NJAC playoffs over Kean, as the Lions earned the third and final berth from the NJAC South Division after posting a 5-8 conference mark. The Raptors knocked Kean out of the playoffs as the Cougars finished 4-9 in the NJAC. If Kean had tied TCNJ at 5-8, the Cougars held the tie-breaker over the Lions by virtue of a head-to-head sweep in two games.

Rutgers-Camden closes its first season under Head Coach Brian Wischusen with a 6-19 record overall and a mark of 2-11 in the NJAC. The six victories doubled the Scarlet Raptors’ total output of the last two years, when they went a combined 3-46.

The win also allowed the Raptors to snap a five-game losing streak against Kean, which owns a 39-20 lead in the all-time series.

Nicholson added 16 points in the win over Kean as he moved into 10th place on the Raptors’ career scoring list with 1,144 points. He passed James Washington, who had 1,141 from 1995-98, and finished two points shy of Jim Keifer (1,146 from 1986-90). Nicholson also added one steal to close his career with a program-record 163 steals in 97 games, tied for the third-most games in program history with Brian O’Donnell (1986-90).

Rutgers-Camden scored the first 10 points of the game and 15 of the first 16. The Raptors raced to a 25-7 lead, including 11 points by Francis, before settling with a 49-37 halftime lead. Francis had 16 points at the half, while Kean senior guard Lamar Wright had 17 on his way to a team-high 28-point performance.

The Cougars rallied in the second half with an 18-6 run to tie the game at 55-55, then took their first lead of the night and increased it to 59-55 on back-to-back layups by senior guard Bryan Miller.

With Kean holding a 65-62 lead, the Raptors’ two seniors, Francis and Nicholson scored back-to-back field goals, putting Rutgers-Camden up for good, 66-65 with 7:30 remaining.

Francis shot 10-for-18 from the floor, including 3-for-3 from three-point range, on his way to 31 points. He passed his old high of 23 points against TCNJ Jan. 17, 2007. He also added a game-high 12 rebounds as he finished the season with his eighth double-double.

The Raptors also received 11 points from sophomore forward/center Antoine Miller (Camden, NJ/Medical Arts), while freshmen guards Joshua Askew (Sicklerville, NJ/Winslow Township) and Rory Thornton (Vauxhall, NJ/Union) each added 10 points. Askew also had a career-high six assists, passing the five he notched at Lincoln University Jan. 8.

In addition to Wright’s 28 points, the Cougars received 12 points from senior guard Brett Wyatt, while senior forward Bryan Keller added 11. A pair of Cougars, Miller and senior forward Steve Koenigstein each added 10 points. Miller added a game-high seven steals.

Wyatt and Koenigstein each added seven rebounds for Kean, which was out-rebounded, 42-37.

The Scarlet Raptors shot 29-for-55 (52.7 percent) from the floor, including 7-for-10 (70.0) from three-point range. Kean shot 27-for-71 (38.0), including 6-for-23 (26.1) from three-point range.

Two days earlier in Ewing, The College of New Jersey’s Coach John Castaldo collected his 200th career win in the Lions’ 70-56 victory over the Raptors.

TCNJ scored the first four points of the game and never trailed as it closed out the regular season with a 12-13 record overall and a 5-8 mark in the NJAC, giving Castaldo a 200-148 record in his 14th season.

The Lions, who opened up a 29-18 halftime lead, held the Scarlet Raptors to only 24.1 percent shooting from the floor (7-for-29) in the opening 20 minutes.

TCNJ’s senior guard Brian Halligan collected a game-high 19 points and added six rebounds, just one point shy of tying his career-best, while junior guard Corey Gilmore netted 13 points for the Lions. Junior forward Mark Aziz contributed 10 points for the Lions, who shot 31-for-59 (52.5) from the floor.

Rutgers-Camden received a double-double from Francis with 12 points and a game-high 11 rebounds. Miller added 11 points for the Scarlet Raptors as they finished the night with a 37-30 edge on the boards.

Nicholson added eight rebounds, six points and four steals on the night.

Francis finished the season leading the Raptors in scoring (14.2 ppg) and rebounding (8.4), while Nicholson averaged 13.0 points during his senior season. Askew was the team leader in both steals (59) and assists (50), while junior guard Tarell Robinson (Irvington, NJ/St. Benedict’s Prep) had a team-high six blocked shots.

Not only did the Raptors’ six wins double their total of the previous two seasons combined, it was the most in one year for Rutgers-Camden since the 2002-03 team went 8-17. By winning their last game, the Raptors avoid a third straight 20-loss season and finished with the only two NJAC victories since the 2003-04 team finished 2-10 in the conference.

While Nicholson finished first in steals, 10th in scoring and tied for third in games on the Rutgers-Camden career charts, Francis had a phenomenal year in his only season at Rutgers-Camden. He earned an all-tournament team berth at all three tournaments in which the Raptors competed this season, including MVP honors as Rutgers-Camden won the Hilton Holiday Classic at Keystone College (Dec. 2-3). Miller and Nicholson both earned one all-tournament team honor, while Askew was named the NJAC’s Rookie of the Week Nov. 27.

Early in the season, when the Raptors beat Valley Forge Christian to improve to 2-1 (on their way to a 4-1 start), it marked the program’s first record over .500 since the end of the 2001-02 season, when the team closed at 14-11.

WOMEN’S BASKETBALL (8-17 overall//2-11 NJAC)

Mon. 12 Gwynedd-Mercy College 83, Rutgers-Camden 46
Thurs. 15 The College of New Jersey 71, Rutgers-Camden 52
Sat. 17 Kean University 82, Rutgers-Camden 72

The Lady Raptors finished their season with three losses during the week as the dropped an 83-46 non-conference game at Gwynedd-Mercy College (Feb. 12), lost a New Jersey Athletic Conference game, 71-52, at The College of New Jersey (Feb. 15) and were defeated by NJAC rival Kean University, 82-72, in their final game in Camden (Feb. 17).

Kean’s junior center Chari’ Cooper collected a double-double in the first half on her way to 27 points and 23 rebounds to power the Cougars over Rutgers-Camden. The Lady Raptors closed their first season under Head Coach Jean Gyurics at 8-17 overall and 2-11 in the NJAC with their sixth straight loss.

After the lead changed hands seven times early in the game, Kean took the advantage for good, 12-10, on a three-pointer by sophomore guard Melissa Beyruti. That shot enabled Beyruti to tie the program career record of 152 treys set by Kellie Rice (2000-04).

Beyruti added another trey in the second half to set a new program record at 153 on her way to 17 points.

Leading 16-14, the Cougars rattled off 13 straight points on their way to a 40-26 halftime lead. By halftime, Cooper had 14 points and 13 rebounds, while junior forward Carmen Oyola (Hammonton, NJ/Hammonton) had seven points to lead the Raptors.

In addition to Cooper and Beyruti, the Cougars received 10 points apiece from junior forward Kimberly Smith and senior forward Chi Clark.

The Cougars shot 34-for-72 (47.2 percent) from the field, while the Raptors were 26-for-56 (46.4), but Kean had an overwhelming 56-26 advantage off the boards, led by Cooper. Clark added eight rebounds for the Cougars.

Kean also received a game-high seven assists from freshman guard Colby Greenlee, while freshman center Cardiss Jackman added a game-high five steals.

For Rutgers-Camden, Oyola and junior guard Imani Hafiz (Franklinville, NJ/Delsea Regional) each collected 12 points, while junior guard Amber Parker (Pennsauken, NJ/Pennsauken) added 11 points.

Freshman guard Alexis Culbreath (Sicklerville, NJ/Winslow Township) added eight points and a career-high six assists for the Raptors. She also tied Hafiz with a team-high three steals. The three steals helped Hafiz close the season with 108, the second-highest single-season total in program history, passing the 106 by Tamara Carey (1994-95). They also allowed Hafiz to move into second place on the career charts with 277 steals, passing the 275 by Jen Hans from 1991-95.

Junior forward Crystal Pezzano (Brockton, MA/Brockton), junior guard Krystal Jankowski (Somerdale, NJ/Sterling) and senior forward Karen Carter (Pennsauken, NJ/Pennsauken) each added eight points for the Raptors.

In the loss at TCNJ, Lions sophomore center Hillary Klimowicz collected a double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds to power the home team to a conference win. The Lions, who also received a game-high five blocks from Klimowicz, raced to a 34-22 halftime lead and were never threatened.

Sophomore guard Alyssa Michella added 11 points and junior guard Sara Best had 10 points for the Lions.

The Lions placed 12 players in the scoring column and shot 45.2 percent (28-for-62) from the field on the night. They also out-rebounded the Lady Raptors, 44-39.

For the Raptors, Hafiz collected 16 points, while Oyola added 10. Jankowski had a team-high nine rebounds.

Rutgers-Camden shot only 18-for-63 from the field (28.6 percent), including 1-for-10 (10.0) from three-point range.

In their first game of the week, the Lady Raptors saw Gwynedd-Mercy College win its 15th straight game and raise its record to 22-2 with an 83-46 non-conference win over Rutgers-Camden Feb. 12 in Gwynedd Valley, Penn.

Gwynedd-Mercy held a 29-24 halftime lead before outscoring Rutgers-Camden, 54-22, in the second half. The Griffins shot 61.3 percent (19-for-31) in the final 20 minutes, including 6-for-10 (60.0) from three-point range. The Raptors, meanwhile, shot 9-for-35 (25.7) in the second half and 19-for-73 (26.0) for the game. They missed all 16 of their shots from three-point range.

Junior Beccie Strohecker collected 15 points for the Griffins, while senior Jackie Dougherty added 11. A pair of other players, junior Kristian Woodridge and senior Ashley Vandiver each added nine points for Gwynedd-Mercy, which saw all but one of its players break into the scoring column.

Rutgers-Camden held a 51-44 advantage off the boards, led by a game- and career-high 21 rebounds from Jankowski, who had 11 offensive rebounds and 10 defensive boards. She broke her previous career high of 19, set against Ramapo College Jan. 27, 2007. She also added eight points.

Hafiz paced Rutgers-Camden with 16 points and added seven rebounds before fouling out of the game. Carter added 14 points and seven rebounds.

The Lady Raptors’ final mark of 8-17 gave Rutgers-Camden its most wins since the 2003-04 team went 10-15.

Carter finished her four-year career playing in 83 games, scoring 466 points and grabbing 309 rebounds, while Hafiz and Jankowski continued their climb on the career charts. Hafiz ends the season with 277 career steals, second only to Tamara Carey’s record 345 (1991-95). Hafiz also will take 673 points and 387 rebounds into her senior season next year as she has a chance to collect 1,000 points and 500 rebounds for her career.

Jankowski finished her junior season with 530 points, 488 rebounds, 215 assists and 142 steals. She is one of only six players in program history to collect over 200 career assists, and is 85 away from becoming only the fourth player to notch 300 assists. She already is eighth on the career rebounding list after leading the team this season with 220 rebounds for an 8.8 average. She also dished out a team-high 83 assists and notched a rare triple-double at Rowan University Jan. 10 with 16 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists.

Hafiz led the club in scoring (12.8 ppg) and steals (108), while Carter had a team-high 21 blocked shots.

Both Hafiz and Jankowski earned a berth on the All-James P. Richardson Memorial Tip-Off Tournament Team (Nov. 17-18, 2006), while Oyola was named to the All-Diversified Invitational Tournament Team (Jan. 5-6, 2007). Hafiz also earned a berth on the national Team of the Week Feb. 1.

Oyola is another Raptor who will enter her senior season next year with a career milestone on the horizon. After scoring 736 points during her two years at Cumberland County College, she added 223 points (8.9 ppg) this year at Rutgers-Camden, leaving her 41 points shy of a combined 1,000-point milestone for her career.


Upcoming Meets

Mon. 19 at NJAC Championships (John Bennett Indoor Athletic Complex, Toms River) 3 p.m.
Fri. 23 at New York University Fast Track Invitational (Armory, New York), 5:30 p.m.

Fri. 2-Sat. 3 at ECAC Championships @ Wesleyan University (Middletown, CT)
Fri. 9-Sat. 10 at NCAA Championships @ Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology (Terre Haute, IN)


Upcoming Games


(at Hampden-Sydney College, Hampden-Sydney, VA)

Fri. 23 at Hampden-Sydney College 3 p.m.
Sat. 24 vs. Waynesburg College 3 p.m.
Sun. 25 vs. Frostburg State University 11 a.m.

Thurs. 1 Haverford College 3 p.m.
Fri. 2 Franklin & Marshall College 3 p.m.
Sat. 3 Albright College 1 p.m.
Sun. 4 SUNY-Brockport 1 p.m.
Tues. 6 at Catholic University 3 p.m.


Upcoming Games


(Host: Virginia Wesleyan College)

(Games at Princess Anne Park, Virginia Beach, VA)

Fri. 2 vs. Frostburg State University (Frostburg, MD) 9 a.m.
Fri. 2 vs. Methodist University (Fayetteville, NC) 1 p.m.
Sat. 3 vs. North Carolina Wesleyan (Rocky Mount, NC) 9 a.m.
Sat. 3 vs. Virginia Wesleyan College (Norfolk/Va. Beach) 11 a.m.

(at Panama City Beach, FL)

Fri. 9 vs. Mt. Union College (Alliance, OH) 2:30 p.m.
Fri. 9 vs. Webster University (St. Louis, MO) 5 p.m.
Sat. 10 vs. Methodist University (Fayetteville, NC) 12:30 p.m.

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