On the campus of Rowan College of South Jersey - Cumberland (formerly Cumberland County College), it has been repeated over and over again. As the No. 4 Dukes Athletics story of 2019, we have no problem repeating it once more. The leadership of first-year head coach, Darrin Stalling, and the performance of the 2018-2019 Cumberland Men's Basketball team was nothing short of amazing. Starting with Coach Stalling.
Stalling took the position of Head Men's Basketball Coach in late July as he inherited a team with only one returning player for the most successful roster in program history, a team that reached the Region XIX Championship for the first time in program history. The task of replenishing a roster in late July, implementing innovative ideas, and instilling a culture of class and unwavering detemination was a daunting one for the former Stockton University assistant. However, after the first week in his position, those on campus knew. Athletic Director, Keith Gorman, hired the perfect person for the job. Stalling worked tirelessly in the weeks that followed, grabbed uncertainty and turned it into a season we would never forget.
Led by lone returnee, Kevin Clark, the Dukes started the season an even 3-3, with two losses by a combined 5 points, including a one point loss to defending National Champion, Brookdale CC. From that point on, fellow sophomore Taylor Clarke and freshman forward, Phil Cisrow, went on a tear. Cumberland went on to win 8 of their next 9 games, which included a a 5-point home victory against Brookdale, their first time defeating the Jersey Blues in decades. From that point, the Dukes began to show their inexperience before Coach Stalling once again, grabbed uncertainty and turned it around once more. Cumberland would win 5 of their last 7 games, including a big victory over nationally ranked, Northampton Spartans, to secure their place in the Region XIX Playoffs.
As the #6 seed, Cumberland would host and defeat the Passaic Panthers, setting up a second round showdown with Brookdale CC at the Robert J. Collins Arena, located on Brookdale's campus. The Dukes would battle the Jersey Blues, as well as their previous history, as Cumberland has never defeated Brookdale on their home court. It would be a back and forth affair, but Cumberland would be led by the "Law Firm" of Cisrow, Clark, and Clarke. Taylor Clarke would lead the Dukes with 31 points, Kevin Clark would pitch in 21 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, and four steals, with Cisrow dominating the floor with 19 points and 16 rebounds. The Dukes would come out victorious with a 80-74 victory, clinching a berth in the Region XIX Final Four. This would be the first time Cumberland would reach the Region XIX Final Four in consecutive seasons.
Unfortunately, the Dukes would fall in the semifinals and not make a return to the Region Championship game. However, many outside of the Cunningham Center could have predicted the Dukes would even compete for a postseason berth back in July, let alone reach the Final Four. That was until Darrin Stalling arrived.