The success of the last year’s Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference semi-final contenders carried into the 2011-12 men’s basketball season. Returning were two players recognized by the AMCC for their contributions in 2010-11, as well as other experienced players who gained valuable minutes and experience one year earlier. Coach deGrandpre and his staff were able to weave the first year players into the program which propelled the Hawks to an 11-7 league record. Following the season-ending semi-final loss in the AMCC play-offs, Hilbert (15-12, 11-7) set several records since the Hawks joined the AMCC league in 2004. Along the way, Hilbert improved statistically in several categories which helped deGrandpre set Hilbert records for AMCC wins (11) and a new overall win record (15) reflective of his coaching staff’s dedication and the hard work and year-round commitment displayed by the Hawks.
In the early portion of the season, wins were hard to come by for the Hilbert. Their season opened with a road loss in a game that they dominated play. A last-second desperation shot by Nazareth College stole the win from Hilbert. The Hawks rebounded and captured their first win over Keuka College in round-one of the Hilbert College Tip-Off Tournament, but Utica College claimed the championship trophy with a victory over Hilbert. The Hawks ended November with losses to Oberlin and Alfred before they claimed their second win against Cazenovia on the 30th . AMCC league play opened with an expected road loss to La Roche College, the AMCC pre-season favorite. But, four nights later, the Hawks dropped their second heart breaker of the season, this time in overtime to Penn State Behrend (71-69).
Things turned around for Hilbert after the 2-6 start. They went on a 9-2 tear averaging almost 82 points per game during that run. Some of the high-lights were when the Hawks scored a season high of 111 points over Mount Aloysius (1/14/12); an 87-78 overtime win against Pitt-Greensburg; a commanding 97-72 rematch victory over La Roche (1/21/12) and a two-point big-time rally victory over D’Youville College (86-84, on 1/11/12). The lone losses were the first game back after the Christmas holiday (Medaille) and the second one-possession overtime defeat to Behrend (69-66 on 1/25/12). During the final month of the long season, the Hawks survived as they split the final games six games (3-3) with wins over Franciscan, Pitt-Bradford and Penn State Altoona.
With an 11-7 league record, the Hawks earned the fourth seed and the right to host a first round play-off game. Hilbert took total command of the February 21 game against D’Youville as they built an 11-point lead with just over nine minutes to go in the first half. D’Youville cut that lead to nine points on the next possession, yet Hilbert extended the double-digit lead en route to their 92-72 win, propelling them to their fourth semi-final game since the 2005 play-offs. Facing Medaille College for the third time, the Hawks felt they had the Mavericks’ number. The Hawks rallied to a 31-27 half time deficit and knotted the game at with ten minutes left but by the final horn, Medaille’s depth and winners-mentality elevated them to a 63-52 victory. Hilbert finished the game with six more steals and four fewer turnovers than Medaille. The Mavericks held an eleven board advantage in rebounds (34-23) and a slight shooting advantage, but Hilbert’s 5 of 13 free throw shooting was no match for Medaille’s 8 of 10.
Statistically this year, the Hawks padded their points per game by four ticks, up from 72.7 ppg to 76.7 ppg this year. They held their opponents to just one point less per game, 73.9ppg (2010-11) to 71.2 ppg (2011-12). Hilbert’s field goal percentage improved to 44.3% from 42.7% a year ago. But an impressive stat which contributed to the team’s success was the decrease in turnovers from 489 (2011) to 356 (2012). The Hawks finished +4.11 in turnover margin and an assist to turnover 1.2 ratio.
Senior leadership was vital to this year’s success. Guards Mike Maritato and Cody Troutman shared starting responsibilities during the season while Chris Hoak was a not-so-secret shooting weapon off the bench. All three bought into the role they played on the team and did their best when their number was called. Each averaged over eleven minutes on the court with Hoak leading the trio in scoring (7.4 ppg) and shooting percentage (39.1%) while Troutman dished for 39 assists.
The junior class had a solid season with Dan McFarland and Chris Parrott pushing their career totals towards and over 1,000 points this season. McFarland surpassed the milestone against Penn State Behrend and finished the season with 1,168 (7th in career standings) while Parrott sits at 986 points. McFarland repeated as an All-Conference selection, jumping to the First Team up from Second Team one season ago as a sophomore. Parrott slotted a spot on the Third Team All-Conference. Two junior college transfers gave the Hawks additional collegiate experience while improving their depth off the bench. Isaac Bushey stepped up often and hit the much-needed big three point shot and Anthony Hodge’s calm and cool guard play surprised opponents when he stopped and popped the long ball or drove quickly to the rim for two.
Last year’s Rookie of the Year, CJ Hodge, directed the Hawks’ offense and led the team to a number two finish in the league with only 229 turnovers (12.7 turnovers per game), just three more than the league leader. Hodge averaged 31 minutes a game and dished a team high 107 assists. Jordan VanDunk came back from a season-ending injury a year ago and showed signs of greatness as the season came to an end averaging 13 points per game during the final month of the season. Another post player with signs of promise was Barry Mason. His 55.8 field goal percentage led the Hawks and he finished fourth in blocks after averaging almost twelve minutes a game. There is no player who worked harder to improve his skills outside of practice than Shaquille Gonsalves. He averaged 2.4 ppg after shooting 50% from the floor and 80% from the charity stripe.
The freshmen on the roster were able learn from the veterans this season. Trevor Stark finished his first season on a high-point after he played 25 minutes and scored 10 points (5 of 8) with zero turnovers against Medaille College in the play-offs. Ryan Brewster and Mike Jones saw minutes in 13 games but practiced everyday against the physically stronger and game savvy post players ahead of them. Rob Cuomo missed a portion of the season with illness, and, when he returned to the court, he reminded the fans of his outstanding shooting ability first displayed in the exhibition win to start the season.