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College Basketball:
Raptor of the Week: Sydney Francis

Monday, November 20, 2006

By Mike Ballard
RutgersCamden Sports Correspondent

Sydney Francis (Camden, NJ/Woodrow Wilson)

Senior forward Sydney Francis had an outstanding Rutgers-Camden debut as the Scarlet Raptors’ basketball team split a pair of games at Alvernia College’s Tom Masano/Sheraton Reading Tip-Off Tournament November 17-18. Francis, who was named to the all-tournament team, averaged a double-double with 13.5 points and 11.5 rebounds over the two games. Included in the performance was a 19-point, 11-rebound game against eventual tournament champion Alvernia.



(At Alvernia University, Reading, PA)

Fri. 17 Baldwin-Wallace College 110, Curry College 70
Alvernia College 74, Rutgers-Camden 55

Sat. 18 Consolation
Rutgers-Camden 53, Curry College 51

Alvernia College 71, Baldwin-Wallace 62

Upcoming Games
Tues. 21 at Valley Forge Christian College 8 p.m.


(at Keystone College, La Plume, PA)

Sat. 2 Keystone College vs. Williamson Trade 6 p.m.
Rutgers-Camden vs. Albany College of Pharmacy 8 p.m.

Sun. 3 Consolation 1 p.m.
Championship 3 p.m.

Wed. 6* Richard Stockton College 8 p.m.
Sat. 9* William Paterson University 3 p.m.
Tues. 12 Baptist Bible College 6 p.m.
Thurs. 14* at Montclair State University 7 p.m.
Sat. 16 Elizabethtown College 3 p.m.

It took two games and an amazing comeback for the Rutgers-Camden men’s basketball team to match its victory total from last season, hand first-year Head Coach Brian Wischusen his first victory with the Scarlet Raptors and end a 20-game losing streak, which dated back to last November.

The Scarlet Raptors split a pair of games at the season-opening Tom Masano/Sheraton Reading Tip-Off Tournament in Reading, Penn., Nov. 17-18. After losing to host and eventual champion Alvernia College, 74-55, on Nov. 17, the Raptors rallied to stun Curry College, 53-51, in the consolation game Nov. 18 by scoring the last 12 points of the contest.

That victory evened the Scarlet Raptors’ record at 1-1 and gave Wischusen a memorable first win at Rutgers-Camden. It also gave the Raptors their first .500 record since they were 1-1 after beating Penn State-Altoona on November 24, 2002 and snapped a 20-game losing streak dating back to early last season. The Raptors’ last win before beating Curry came in a 112-85 victory at Valley Forge Christian College on Nov. 28, 2005. Ironically, the Raptors will travel to Valley Forge Christian for their next game Nov. 21 and a victory would give them their first winning record since they ended the 2001-02 season at 14-11.

In the championship game, host Alvernia College used 28 points from tournament MVP Garrett Etzel to post a 71-62 victory over Baldwin-Wallace, which was ranked sixth nationally in the pre-season poll.

Rutgers-Camden senior Sydney Francis (Camden, NJ/Woodrow Wilson) joined Baldwin-Wallace sophomore Andrew Bene, Curry freshman Sherard Robbins and the Alvernia trio of Etzel, freshman Matt King and senior Ryan Finger on the All-Tournament Team.

Curry held a 51-41 lead with 3:13 left to play following a layup by Robbins, but the Colonels (0-2) committed four turnovers and missed three free throws down the stretch to relinquish the lead. Rutgers-Camden pulled within one point on back-to-back jumpers from sophomore Wayne Smalls (Camden, NJ/Medical Arts). Following a Colonel turnover, freshman guard Mark McCloskey (Pennsauken, NJ/Camden Catholic) went to the line and hit two foul shots to give the Raptors the lead, 52-51. Sophomore Antoine Miller (Camden, NJ/Medical Arts) hit 1-of-2 from the line with one second left for the two-point win.

The two teams combined for 35 turnovers in the opening half. Curry opened with a turnover off the jump ball and Dane Nicholson’s (Pleasantville, NJ/Holy Spirit) jumper at 19:13 was the only bucket in the first 3:38.

Rutgers-Camden held a seven-point lead twice in the early going. The Raptors pushed the margin to a dozen points, 22-10, with 5:43 left in the half. Curry cut it down to six points with a 6-0 run and Nicholson scored the final bucket of the half for a 26-18 Rutgers-Camden lead at the break.

The teams traded buckets for the start of the second half before Curry cut the lead down to two points with a quick 5-0 spurt and eventually tied the game at 36-all on a Toby Brittian layup. Robbins hit a pair of free throws and a jumper to put Curry up four, 40-36. After Smalls hit a trey to take the lead back, Curry ran off 11 straight points ending in Robbins’ layup with 3:13 to play, setting up the Raptors’ amazing comeback.

In their season opener, the Raptors watched Alvernia’s Etzel score a game-high 22 points to lead the Crusaders to a 74-55 win over the Scarlet Raptors Nov. 18.

Sophomore transfer Terrence Shawell added 17 points, while Finger had a game-high seven assists and collected nine rebounds for the Crusaders.

Etzel opened up the scoring nailing his first of two first-half treys just over 10 seconds into play. The visiting Scarlet Raptors answered with seven straight points over a four-minute stretch paced by five from Nicholson. Alvernia battled back over the next four minutes, tying the score at 10-all on a Finger layup with 12:07 to play.

The Crusaders forced Rutgers-Camden into a turnover for the fourth straight possession and Zach Westmoreland dropped in a jumper for a 12-10 Alvernia lead. Etzel gave the Crusader a 19-17 lead with his second trey, and back-to-back layups from Finger and Etzel pushed the lead to six for the hosts, 23-17.

A three-pointer from Smalls cut the lead in half, but the Crusaders closed the half with 10 of the last 14 points to take a 33-24 lead to the locker room. Etzel paced the hosts’ efforts with 12 points over the first 20 minutes and King posted three assists and two blocked shots.

Rutgers-Camden scored the first three points of the second half to cut the lead to six, 33-27, and following a trey by Francis, the Crusaders’ lead was down to five, 37-32. Shawell answered with a three-pointer, but five straight Raptor points cut the Alvernia lead to three. Shawell scored on a short jumper and Etzel’s third trey of the night pushed the lead back to eight.

Following another Francis bucket, Alvernia ran off an 8-1 run fueled by a Shawell dunk that put Alvernia ahead, 58-45, with 8:56 to play. Rutgers-Camden cut the lead back to 10, but did not get closer as the Crusaders rattled off 14 straight points to take a commanding lead.

Francis led the Scarlet Raptors with 19 points, Smalls reached 11, and Nicholson scored 10. Francis also grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds for the only double-double of the night.



(At Lincoln University, PA)

Fri. 17 Rutgers-Camden 53, Washington (MD) College 52
Lincoln University 62, Rosemont College 59 (OT)

Sat. 18 Consolation
Washington College 63, Rosemont College 54

Lincoln University 76, Rutgers-Camden 59

Upcoming Games
Tues. 21 at Valley Forge Christian College 6 p.m.
Tues. 28 Eastern University 6 p.m.

Sat. 2* at Montclair State University 1 p.m.
Mon. 4 at Elizabethtown College 7:30 p.m.
Wed. 6* Richard Stockton College 6 p.m.
Sat. 9* William Paterson University 1 p.m.
Tues. 12 at College of Staten Island 7 p.m.

The Lady Raptors opened their season by splitting a pair of games and earning a pair of all-tournament selections at the James A. Richardson Memorial Tip-Off Tournament at Lincoln University. They lost in the championship game to host Lincoln, 76-59, Nov. 18 after earning a hard-fought 53-52 win over Washington College in their season opener Nov. 17. That victory was the first at Rutgers-Camden for first-year Head Coach Jean Gyurics.

In the title game, tournament MVP Shanice Nesmith scored 19 of her game-high 25 points in the second half as Lincoln broke open a halftime tie and went on to defeat Rutgers-Camden, 76-59.

In the consolation game, Washington College defeated Rosemont College, 63-54.

In winning its first regular season tournament title since 2000, Lincoln improved to 2-0 and ended a four-game losing streak to the Raptors, who dropped to 1-1. It was the fifth consecutive season Rutgers-Camden and Lincoln have met in a regular-season tournament. Unlike the previous four meetings, this was the first time both teams battled for a championship.

The two teams played to a 31-31 halftime tie before Lincoln outscored Rutgers-Camden, 45-28, in the second half. Nesmith, a freshman guard, scored 19 of the Lady Lions’ points to finish with a 25-point game in both tournament contests.

Nesmith sparked an 18-6 blitz midway through the second half by scoring 11 consecutive points. By the time Lincoln's run ended, the Lions' slim 43-41 lead was a comfortable 61-47 margin with 8:09 remaining. Nesmith began her personal scoring binge with a 3-pointer. She added a pair of layups, two foul shots and a short jumper.

Lincoln senior Mary Rotimi also had a strong game, recording her 23rd career double-double by scoring 18 points and grabbing 18 rebounds.

Rotimi joined Nesmith on the all-tournament team along with Rutgers-Camden junior guards Imani Hafiz (Franklinville, NJ/Delsea Regional) and Krystal Jankowski (Somerdale, NJ/Sterling), Washington College freshman Jane O'Donnell and Rosemont senior Katie Linder.

Rutgers-Camden started quickly by racing to a 15-6 lead seven minutes into the game. However, the Lady Lions battled back behind Rotimi, who had 11 points and 11 rebounds in the opening 20 minutes. Lincoln scored the final six points of the first half to force a 31-31 halftime score.

Rutgers-Camden junior forward Jennifer Christy (Malaga, NJ/Delsea Regional) scored off a feed from Hafiz to begin the second half. On Lincoln's next possession down the floor, senior Latoya Milstrey sank a three-pointer to give the Lady Lions the lead for good, 34-33 with 19:27 remaining.

Hafiz had another solid game by scoring 17 points, grabbing nine rebounds and making four steals. Senior forward Karen Carter (Pennsauken, NJ/Pennsauken) paced the Scarlet Raptors with 21 points and added eight rebounds. Jankowski grabbed a team-high 11 rebounds for the second straight day.

For Lincoln, freshman Chanelle Harris registered seven assists for the second consecutive game. Junior Asha Atkinson notched 10 points. Sophomore Tanina Cook grabbed 10 rebounds for the Lady Lions.

In their opening game, Jankowski made a layup with 3:22 remaining to lift the Lady Raptors into a one-point lead and junior forward Carmen Oyola (Hammonton, NJ/Hammonton) added the clinching layup with 1:28 to play as Rutgers-Camden edged Washington (MD) College, 53-52, in the inaugural James A. Richardson Tip-Off Tournament.

Oyola, a transfer from Cumberland County College making her Raptor debut, finished with a team-high 15 points. Her night was capped by the late-game layup, which came off a steal by Hafiz and gave the Raptors a 53-50 lead.

Rutgers-Camden had the ball with under a minute to play, but a steal and lay-up by Washington senior guard LaToya Turner cut the deficit to 53-52 with 20 seconds remaining. Rutgers-Camden turned the ball over in the backcourt following a timeout with 19 seconds left and Washington junior guard Elise Conway missed a jumper long with seven seconds remaining. Rutgers-Camden freshman guard Alexis Culbreath (Sicklerville, NJ/Winslow Township) grabbed the rebound and was fouled with three seconds to go. Culbreath missed both free throws, but time expired before anyone could control the rebound and the Scarlet Raptors held on for the win.

Rutgers-Camden held an 18-10 lead with 6:38 left in the first half before the Shorewomen closed the period on an 18-6 run to take a 28-24 lead at the break. Each team committed 14 turnovers in the first half, but Washington held a 23-16 advantage on the boards in the period, including a 12-6 edge on the offensive end.

The Shorewomen extended the lead to 32-24 on fast-break lay-ups by Turner and junior forward Brenda Lucas with 18:10 left in the second, but a 20-6 Scarlet Raptor run, capped off by a jumper by Hafiz with 9:36 left, put Rutgers-Camden up, 44-38.

Washington responded with an 11-2 run to take a 49-46 lead before the Raptors bounced back with their game-winning rally.

In addition to Oyola’s 15 points, Hafiz finished with 10 points and a game-high five steals. Jankowski tallied six points and a team-best 11 rebounds.

Turner led all scorers with 16 points for the Shorewomen, while O'Donnell scored 13. Conway notched a game-high 16 rebounds.

Rutgers-Camden shot 35.8% in the game, while Washington shot 31.3%. The two teams combined for 50 turnovers in the contest - 26 for Washington and 24 for Rutgers-Camden. The Shorewomen held a 49-43 advantage off the boards.

The tournament is named after the father of Lincoln University alum Tarron Richardson (’99). Richardson, the only player in school history with 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds, ended his career with 1,512 points and 1,157 rebounds. Richardson’s father, James, was a faithful supporter of Lincoln University athletics, who died in 2003 after a brief battle with cancer.

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