The men’s basketball team at York College will take on Rhode Island College tonight, March 6, in the opening round of the NCAA Division III postseason tournament.
York, 21-7, earned the postseason berth last Friday with an upset 87-84 win over top-seeded College of Staten Island in the City University of New York Athletic Conference championship game.
The Cardinals will be led by senior guard Michael Woods, the CUNYAC regular season player of the year and tournament’s most valuable player. He finished second in the country in scoring at the Division III level with 28.4 points per game.
Jamaica native Omar St. John, a junior guard who attended Martin Van Buren High School in Queens Village, was a CUNYAC first-team and tournament all-star. He averaged 18.3 points per game.
Rhode Island College, 20-8, won an automatic berth last week by winning the Little East Conference postseason tournament.
Sixty-two teams qualify for the tournament at Division III, two of which receive first-round byes.
The winner of York-Rhode Island faces the unenviable task of playing defending Division III champion and first-round bye recipient Amherst College of Massachusetts on the road on March 8.
Third-round games in York’s half of the bracket are scheduled for March 14 with the quarterfinals one day later.
National semifinals and the Division III championship game are slated for March 21-22 in Salem, Va,
York won its own automatic bid in a nail-biter in the CUNYAC finals on Feb. 28.
Woods scored a game-high 36 points. St. John added 24.
The Cardinals, seeded second going into the tournament, started the game on an 8-0 run against top-ranked Staten Island, which entered the game 25-3 with a 24-game winning streak.
After Staten Island pulled within 8-5, York scored 14 points in a row, with Woods notching 12.
Staten Island settled down and pulled within 40-36 at halftime, and came out strong in the second half, grabbing a 47-46 lead with 16:40 remaining.
Again it was Woods and St. John restoring order, with the former scoring two baskets and setting up St. John with a pair of fast breaks to give the Cardinals a seven-point cushion.
The Dolphins pulled ahead 72-69 with just over seven minutes to go before York’s Donald Rodriguez hit a pair of three-point shots on consecutive possessions.
Staten Island was down 85-84 with the ball and 17 seconds left on the clock before Woods forced a steal. He was fouled with four seconds on the clock and hit a pair of clutch free throws.
CSI committed a turnover, allowing the Cardinals to run out the clock, and run into the national championship tournament.