VFCC men's basketball off to 2-1 start

Photo by Barry Taglieber Lance Harris (4, back) of Valley Forge Christian College defends against Florida Christian's Stephen Galvin Jr. (4) during Hersha Hospitality Tip-Off Classic.

CHARLESTOWN - The Valley Forge Christian College men’s basketball team, under the direction of Jon Mack for the 12th season, has started the 2012-13 campaign with a 2-1 record.

The Patriots began their season by hosting the Hersha Hospitality Tip-Off Classic at The Pit on campus Thursday through Saturday, Nov. 15-17.

VFCC opened the season with a 93-32 rout of The King’s College last Thursday night. Then came an 88-67 victory over Florida Christian College from Kissimmee, Fla., on Friday night. Finally, the Patriots fell to Southeastern University of Lakeland, Fla., 73-48, on Saturday evening.

The Patriots were in action Nov. 23-24 at the Gallaudet University Holiday Tournament in Washington, D.C.

Against the Suns of Florida Christian, Valley Forge CC jumped out to a 43-34 lead by halftime. The Patriots led by as many as 23 points with 51 seconds left in the contest at 86-63. VFCC outscored its foe, 54-28, in the paint and scored 21 points off turnovers as opposed to 12 markers off miscues by the Suns.

Five players scored in double figures for the Patriots. They were Kevin Mack (19), Lance Harris (13), Jermaine Purnell (12), Donnell Davis (11) and Jonathan Dukes (10). Dukes also pulled down 10 rebounds and had five assists and one steal in 27 minutes of action. The Patriots outrebounded the Skuns, 40-31. Dominic Cain, who scored eight points, had seven boards and so did Harris.

Mack shot 8-for-10 from the floor with one trey, 2-for-2 foul shooting, one rebound, two assistys and three steals in 32 minutes.

The Patriots shot 36-for-67 (53.7 percent) from the floor and 6-for-13 from 3-point range and 10-for-19 at the free throw stripe.

“That was the best we’ve played,” said Mack. “I have confidence in our defense, but it had been suspect and I thought we were vulnerable. Today we showed flashes of our previous teams. We have the potential, but we have to be consistent. This was a very good victory by a young team against a team second-ranked in the NCCAA.”

Jon Mack, a former star at VFCC who graduated in 2001, is assisted by Ronshea Vargas and Tim Pomerhn and student assistant Michael Stum, one of the stars on last year’s Patriot contingent.

Mack is a 6-3 sophomore while Davis is a 5-11 senior and Harris is a 6-1 junior. Davis and Harris comprise the Patriots’ backcourt, and Mack is depending on them heavily to run the show at both ends of the court. Other returning players are 6-0 sophomore Jean LeBlanc from Coatesville and 5-8 junior Isaiah Carson.

The top newcomers are Dukes, a versatile and physical 6-4 freshman; Cain, a 6-5 freshman; and Chase Bell, a 5-11 freshman. They are supported by Michael Pritchett, a 6-4 freshman; Purnell, a 6-3 freshman; and Domenick Bond, a 6-3 freshman.

Gone from the scene are Stum, Latrell Alford, Steve Sims and Justin Kinsey.

In the thrashing of King’s, Bond scored 13 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in 24 minutes as Valley Forge CC built a 58-22 cushion by halftime. Bond shot 6-for-8 from the floor and also had three steals, two blocked shots and one assist.

The Patriots cleared their bench and gave playing time to other reserves like Jordan Harmon, Ryan Crumpton, Garrett Osborn, Kasey Koser and Brad Olden.

“We had 15 turnovers and we had been averaging 21,” said Jon Mack. “This was the first time we have been under 20 turnovers. Our goal is 13 or 14. We also had 21 assists and that was huge for us today. We got rebounds and they (Suns) are relentless on the boards. They come at you with size, after size, after size.”

The Patriots are a young squad that should improve with experience as the season progresses.

“We are a young basketball team,” said Jon Mack. “Of the 16 players on the roster, 12 are newcomers. It will be a challenge. We have some inexperience. They have to learn our system that is defensive-oriented with transition. That is an adjustment for a lot of guys.

“We are now in NCAA Division II so we started later and that limits the number of practices. That is an adjustment for us. The talent is still there. In past years, we got off to a fast start. This could be a different path but with the smae ending. The coaching staff has embraced the process of playing good basketball by the end of January.”

The Patriots finished with a 26-8 overall record last year with a 4-0 mark in regionals. They have four lettermen returning and lost six. They return two starters and lost three.

The VFCC coaches figure turnovers and second-chance opportunities by the Patriots and those by opponents will determine the team’s success this winter.

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