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CUNYAC All-Stars drop final game of goodwill tour

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“This was the perfect way to end the tour,” said CUNY head coach Harold Merritt. “We may have been on the losing end of the final score, but this trip was about way more than basketball. The people of the Dominican Republic opened their country to us, and I think our guys have really made an impression on them. I could not be more proud to have been associated with this team and this trip.”

The CUNY squad was led by Hunter College guard Ricardo Riemers’ 17 points. Riemers helped spark a third-quarter comeback that saw the CUNY come all the way back from an 18-point deficit to eventually take a four-point lead. Baruch’s Garry Ettiene added 16 points and 7 rebounds, while York College’s Kwesi Liverpool had 13 points and eight boards.

Lehman guard and Dominican Republic native Luis Chavez scored 10 points and College of Staten Island’s Mike Nebavlakis had six points and a team-high 10 rebounds.

“The crowd was definitely electric,” Liverpool said. “You could feel the energy. But everyone was there to have a good time and cheer their team on. Once we calmed down on defense and went to a zone, we were able to play good defense which led to good offense.”

“I think that the tour has gone exactly how we had envisioned it from the beginning,” said interim executive director of the CUNYAC Zak Ivkovic, a Ridgewood resident. “Combining CUNY student-athletes, their chosen sport, and putting them into a whole new culture and environment. Thanks to the great success of the first one, we certainly hope to do this every single year, and open it up to other CUNY sports teams.”

The all-stars left the Dominican Republic with a 3-1 record, as well as a better understanding of the world outside New York and the CUNY Athletic Conference.

“This trip has opened us up to new experiences and allowed us to meet people from all over the world,” said Hunter College point guard Lorcan Precious. “We were honored to have been the first CUNY group to have this experience. I hope that other teams get to have the opportunity in the future. We’ve gained valuable experience in the ways of the world outside of the United States.”

Notes: CUNY had a chance to win the game in regulation, but Michael Stewart’s three-point attempt at the buzzer was off the mark.

Assistant coach Ray Rankis, whose been through just about every CUNY experience possible in his 20 years as Baruch head coach, eight years as an assistant at John Jay, and four years as a student-athlete at Lehman, had positive impressions of the tour. “I’ve gotten to make a lot of good friends, and had a marvelous opportunity to learn more about our CUNY athletes and what they’re all about,” said Rankis. “Even when things haven’t gone completely smoothly it’s still been fantastic because it’s a different culture here and you learn to appreciate what we have back in the US and you also get to see the pride of the Dominican people in spite of the poverty and adversity that they face. This is easily one of the top two or three highlights in my 32 years in CUNY.”

The team has been treated to many examples of Dominican hospitality throughout the week, none more so than prior to the final game. After a two-hour bus ride to the outdoor arena, several players and coaches needed to use the restroom. As was the case with the other playing facilities this week, there were none on site, so the team headed across the street from the court, to a local resident’s house, where she graciously allowed the guys to use her facility.

The capacity crowd cheered their team on every step of the way, complete with drums and music. Some people who couldn’t get into the game watched from surrounding rooftops, balconies, and even trees. After the game, coach Merritt was interviewed on Dominican television while the team handed out gifts to the local children.

Posted 7:24 pm, October 10, 2011
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