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Hofstra’s seniors hang tough

Hofstra's Matt Grogan, left, attempts to get a

Hofstra's Matt Grogan, left, attempts to get a shot past Delaware's Carl Baptiste during the first half. (Feb. 27, 2013) Credit: James Escher

Rarely has one team been ripped asunder the way Hofstra’s basketball team was this season. But while the Pride dropped to 7-23 (4-13 CAA) with a gut-wrenching 57-56 loss to Delaware in the home finale Wednesday night at Mack Sports Complex, they are not without honor for the way they have persevered all season.

There really was no possible way to recover from the early-season scandal when four players, including two starters, were kicked out of school following allegations of theft. Injury problems reduced the roster further. But facing a Blue Hens (17-13, 12-5) team tied for second in the CAA, the Pride fought to the last gasp.

And for the most part, that has been standard operating procedure for coach Mo Cassara’s team. They endured a few blowouts when they were outmanned and weary, but 11 of the Pride’s losses have come by single digits.

They held Delaware to a 30.9 percent shooting night, outrebounded the Hens, 40-38, equaled points in the paint (24-24) and had the edge in second-chance points (16-12). Those stats reflect hustle.

David Imes, who was honored on Senior Night along with Stevie Mejia and walk-on Matt Grogan (pictured), tried to explain what the season has been like. “It’s just adversity,” Imes said. “Us three just try to stay as positive as possible. We’re the rock of this team. Whenever we see each other, the first thing we do is try to pick each other up.”

Hofstra has held four of its past seven opponents to fewer than 60 points and has done that 11 times overall this season. But the Pride is only 5-6 in those games because it is offensively challenged after losing so much.

“We’re always defensive-minded first,” Mejia said. “We hold teams under 40 percent, 35 percent. We can do that to these guys, too. We’ve got them again [in the first round of the CAA Tournament], and we know their lineup very well.”

At one point late in the first half with Delaware clinging to a three-point lead, Cassara went with a lineup that included starters Mejia and Taran Buie along with subs Darren Payen, Daquan Brown and Adam Savion from the end of the bench. Like Grogan, Savion is a walk-on. All acquitted themselves well.

“I’m trying to take advantage of the opportunity,” Grogan said. “I go out on the court and leave everything on the court. This is my last go-round. I try to play my role. Today, the ball didn’t go in the basket, but I just try to get rebounds and play hard on defense. I’m thankful coach Mo gave me the opportunity [to start]. I put in a lot of time and effort. To be honest, I wouldn’t rather be doing anything else.”

The Pride closes the regular season Saturday at Towson, which is tied with Delaware and then gets a rematch with the Blue Hens in the first round of the CAA Tournament, March 9 at Richmond Coliseum. “Let’s put all these tough losses and all these heart-breaking finishes in our back pockets,” Cassara said, “and use it to help us win the game down in Richmond.”

New York Sports