After being surprised with being seeded 6th in the Region XIX Men's Basketball Tournament, the Dukes Men's Basketball team received added motivation to succeed in the next few weeks. After an impressive 17-9 regular season campaign, that included victories over 4 of the 5 teams seeded above them, the Dukes wanted to prove that they belonged among the top teams in the region. Convincing victories over (11th seed) Passaic County in the first round and defending champion (3rd Seed) Brookdale CC, Cumberland did just that.
In the first round matchup against Passaic County, Cumberland faced a foe in which they split the season series 1-1, with the away team winning each game. The Dukes looked to avenge a late season home loss to the Panthers, but came out sluggish. Late in the 1st half, the Dukes elevated their defensive intensity to head to the locker room with a 39-31 lead after trading baskets for much for the half. In the second half, Cumberland held the Panthers at a distance and ultimately extended their lead as they wore down the opponent. Led by prime time performances by Phil Cisrow (25 pts, 17 reb) and Kevin Clark (31 pts, 10 reb, 5 ast), Cumberland would easily secure the 83-68 victory to move on to the Quarterfinals. Michael Burden and Taylor Clarke would each contribute 10 pts, with Burden also hauling in 7 rebounds.
The Quarterfinal matchup was a rematch of the 2018 Region XIX Championship Game. Brookdale and Cumberland also split their season series with the home team winning each game. In the second game of the season, Cumberland fell to Brookdale 71-70 after missing 3 potential game winning baskets in the final seconds, but also missed multiple free throws and easy baskets throughout. Safe to say, the Dukes felt they should have swept the season series and their approach early on reflected their thoughts. Cumberland would lead by as much as 9 in the first half, but the defending champs would not go away and charge to tie the game at 33 at halftime. Taylor Clarke led the charge for the Dukes, scoring 23 of his 31 points, in the first half.
It was a total team effort for the Dukes in the second half as Phil Cisrow and Kevin Clark came to the aid of Clarke. Kevin Clark would finish the game with the impressive line of 21 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, and 4 steals. Clark also went 15 for 18 from the free throw line including the game clinching free throws. Cisrow would add 19 points to go along with 16 rebounds, including 8 on the offensive end, to handle the paint area for the Dukes. Freshman guard, Michael Burden, added critical contribution for the Dukes on the defensive end as the top of the suffocating zone defense for Cumberland. Brookdale would make one last charge in the back end of the 2nd half, getting as close as 3 points to bring the deficit to 71-68. However, Cumberland would hold strong for a 80-74 victory.
Cumberland now moves on the Region XIX Final Four which will be played at Brookdale Community College in Lincroft, NJ. They will face Middlesex County College at 5 PM on Saturday, March 2. Cumberland and Middlesex split their season series with the home team winning each game.