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York Cardinals soar into CUNY semifinals

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Ron St. John was looking for that extra little bit of motivation to feed the York men’s basketball team before its CUNY quarterfinal game Sunday against the College of Staten Island.

He found it, right from the mouth of CSI freshman John Smith.

When York Assistant Sports Information Director Lisa Walters wished Smith luck before the game, St. John said the former Bayside standout responded, “We don’t need any luck.”

That was all the Cardinals needed to hear. Marvin Gray and Michael Thompson dominated the low post and Jason Daniel added a game-high 17 points as No. 6 York advances to the CUNY semifinals with a 68-57 win over third-seeded Staten Island at the Baruch ARC Arena.

“For him to say that is crazy because the first time we limited his touches, too,” Daniel said of Smith, who controlled the glass in the Dolphins’ 66-55 home win Feb. 7. “That fueled us a lot. It gave us an extra edge to go after them.”

York (10-14) makes its 15th consecutive trip to the semifinals where it will face No. 2 City College of New York, 84-64 winners over No. 10 New York City College of Technology, in a game scheduled for Wednesday. The winner plays for the CUNY title and an automatic bid into the Division III NCAA tournament at the ARC Arena Friday at 7:45 p.m.

“We needed to attack the basket and get John Smith and Michael Nebavlakis in foul trouble before they got us in foul trouble,” St. John said. “I said to Marcus before the game, ‘if you get double-figure rebounds and put back some of the chippies, we’re going to win the game.’”

With St. John reminding York of Smith’s apparent diss as often as possible, the Cardinals, who split the regular season series with CSI, didn’t waver from their game plan like they had so many times during the regular season.

Jason Daniel outplayed CUNY Player of the Year Michael Stewart, who had 10 points but shot just 4-for-13 from the field.

Gray, a 6-foot-9 senior forward, scored 8 points but grabbed 17 rebounds and had 6 blocked shots, while Thompson added 12 points and 9 boards. Smith finished with a team-high 14 points and 18 rebounds but played tentatively in the second half.

CUNY Rookie of the Year Kwesi Liverpool had 12 points on 5-for-5 shooting from the field and former Campus Magnet standout Roberto Tapia added 11 points for the Cardinals.

With York switching its defense from man-to-man to a 2-3 zone, the College of Staten Island (15-10) was unable — or unwilling — to attack the post. Instead the Dolphins chucked up long-range shot after long-range shot, many missing their mark.

CSI scored just 9 points in the opening 12 minutes of the second half and shot 25 percent (9-for-36) from the field and 16.7 percent (3-for-18) from three-point range. The team wasn’t much better from the foul line, either, connecting on just 52.4 percent from the line.

“We never established the low post, which hurt us on offense and defense,” said CSI coach Brian Gasper. “They brought the ball right to the basket and got a lot of rebounds.”

York 47, Lehman 45. Tashana Watson had 16 points, 10 rebounds and 4 steals and Garrianne Brown added 11 points, 11 rebounds and 5 assists for the York women’s basketball team in a CUNY quarterfinal win Saturday at the Baruch ARC Arena.

The third-seeded Cardinals (9-13), who also received 11 points from freshman center Tara Grubbs, held No. 6 Lehman (8-18) to just 3 points in the final 5:30 of the game. Plagued by foul trouble, CUNY Rookie of the Year Melissa Escalera was held to just 11 points and 5 rebounds.

“We got Melissa in foul trouble, which was one of our top priorities,” York coach Jackie Smith said. “We knew that without her we could beat them inside and out-hustle them. We’re bigger than they are and we wanted to use that.”

York advances to the semifinals to play No. 2 Hunter in a game scheduled for Tuesday night. The winner meets either Staten Island or Baruch at the ARC Arena in the CUNY title game Friday at 5:30 p.m.

Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by email at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 143.

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