LANCASTER, Pa. – The Ithaca men’s basketball team outlasted host No. 14 Franklin & Marshall, 107-97, to win the championship game of the Sponaugle New Years Tournament on Monday evening. As the Bombers increased their winning streak to seven and snapped the Diplomats’ six-game run, Ithaca placed a pair of sophomores on the All-Tournament Team. Guard Sean Rossi (Sparta/Sparta, N.J.) was selected the Most Valuable Player and forward Andrei Oztemel (Staples/Westport, Conn.) was honored on the team.
The Bombers (9-2) tallied their highest point total since a 108-69 victory over Alfred on Jan. 15, 2010 as they surpassed the 100-point mark for the first time and placed five in double digits for the sixth time this season.
Senior guard Chris Cruz-Rivas (West Genesee/Syracuse) led Ithaca with his fourth career double-double by tallying 27 points and 12 rebounds, matching his career-best on the boards. Oztemel drained six three-pointers and finished with 25 points and eight rebounds, while senior center Phil Barera (Belmont/Belmont, Mass.), Rossi and junior forward Jordan Marcus (Solomon Schechter/West Orange, N.J.) each reached double figures with 16, 15 and 14, respectively. Rossi added nine assists for the second straight night and helped the Bombers to their third consecutive game of shooting better than 50 percent from the floor.
Though the first frame of action was knotted on five occasions, Ithaca not once trailed. Barera opened all scoring with the first of his three back-to-back layups. With a one-point edge over F&M (8-2) at 15:21, Cruz-Rivas swished a pair of treys before Oztemel buried his second of the night to take a 10-point lead. The Diplomats slowly chipped away at the deficit and twice tied-up the action but Ithaca surged to take a 51-46 advantage to the locker room at the break.
F&M opened the second stint with six unanswered to notch its first lead of the contest. The teams went bucket-for-bucket over the next minute of action before the Diplomats went on to lead through the 14-minute mark. Trailing by as many as five, Ithaca used a 14-2 run to return to dominance, 71-64. F&M answered with seven straight but a layup by freshman guard Miles Grier (Druid Hills/Lilburn, Ga.) at 10:16 secured Ithaca’s lead for good.
Ithaca preserved its edge and extended it to 10 with Oztemel’s final three of the night at 2:16, before the teams closed tournament action with seven points each to finalize the score at 107-97.
The Bombers return to Ben Light Gymnasium and Empire 8 action on Friday, Jan. 7 for a 8 p.m. contest against Alfred.