Nassau Community College will face Suffolk County Community College in the Region XV Division III men’s basketball tournament for the second year in a row.
NCC’s surging Lions (23-5, 18-4 Region XV) are the tournament’s No. 1 seed and will play No. 8 SCCC (14-13, 11-11 XV) on Friday at 7 p.m. in New Rochelle.
But the rankings aren’t always telling, said Nassau coach A.J. Wynder. His team was upset by SCCC last season in the same game and he said this time he’s hoping to clinch Nassau’s first NJCAA Division III National Tournament berth since the 2013-14 season. Nationals will be held March 11-13 at SUNY Sullivan near Monticello.
“We can’t avoid Suffolk,” Wynder said. “Last year we were the No. 2 and they were the No. 7 and they knocked us out of the playoffs. The kids remember that, but you’ve got to worry about what’s happening this year.”
Nassau, which has lost only two games since Jan. 3, finished its regular season with a 67-66 win over Orange Community College. Orange CC hosted due to a broken basket in the Nassau gym.
The Lions have been unshakable this year with a talented team led by Kavione Green, from Deer Park and Amityville High School, and Marc Campbell, an Elmont product.
Green is the leading scorer with 14.1 points per game and is shooting 54.3 percent from the field while Campbell, who scored 17 points, including three three-pointers, in the first half of an impressive win Thursday against Rockland Community College, averages 13.5 points per game.
The sophomores believe Nassau will find success if it sticks to what’s already worked: sharing the ball and being aggressive shooters, rebounders and defenders. Green averages 6.5 rebounds per game and Campbell has 4.1.
“We’ve got the bullseye on our backs so we’ve got to be in attack mode from the first game to the last game,” Green said. “I’m from Suffolk so it’s a little rivalry game, but it’s a game where you’ve got to play hard and win.”
Campbell, who won a Region XV Championship two years ago and was sidelined with an injury last season, said there’s a little extra motivation after getting eliminated by SCCC. He added that his team has its sight on nationals, but has to earn its place first.
“I believe we’re going to win,” Campbell said. “Obviously we have confidence in our team, but we have all the pieces. We have big [men], we have guards . . . everybody can play. We have a deep team and that’s rare; everybody could get a bucket at any time. We have the right pieces to win the championship.”
Added Wynder: “Anything less than winning the whole thing would be a disappointment, but as you know, it’s what happens on the court. Hopefully the guys are locked in and focused. We’re not taking anything for granted.”