Heading into the 2017-2018 season, the Cumberland County College Men's Basketball team held promise with an incoming freshman class filled with potential. In the season prior, the Dukes endured a mentally draining year that saw them drop multiple games that could have been easily been won, including five games lost by 5 points or less. After gaining the needed experience mixed with the infusion of youthful exuberance, Cumberland was poised for a breakout season.
The Dukes tripped up early in the season starting out 1-2, with two losses by a combined 8 points to eventual 2019 Region XIX Final Four Participants, Northampton and Rowan-Gloucester. Soon after, Cumberland would find their stride as they would go undefeated against region opponents for just over a month before facing eventual National Champion, Brookdale Community College. After that loss, the Dukes would win 11 of their last 13 games including 2 wins over Rowan-Gloucester to avenge their early season defeat. They would carry 21-6 record into the postseason, the first time surpassing 20 wins in a season in program history.
The fast pace, high-octane attack was led by guards Tyler Lunsford and Luciano Lubrano. The freshmen guards sparked the surge of the Cumberland Offense that surpassed the 100-point mark on a consistent basis. Both guards averaged double-digit point totals during the season with Lunsford averaging 13 ppg and Lubrano averaging 13 ppg as well. Lunsford was an impressive all-around player for the Dukes as he pulled in averages of 6 rebounds/game and 6 assists/game in addition to leading the team in steals, average 3 spg.
The Cumberland County Basketball Highlight reel had its showcase star in 2nd-Team All-Region forward Haashim Wallace. Wallace dazzled the crowd on a nightly basis with an array of impressive offensive plays and thunderous dunks that were felt across the nation. You might say that the proclamation may be overdramatic, however, an alley oop dunk by Wallace made its way through the internet and eventually landed him on Sportscenter's Top 10 as well as ESPN Sports Nation. For video, click the following link (http://www.espn.com/video/clip?id=21712397). Wallace ended his career year as the team's leading scorer at 15 ppg and was second on the team in rebounds (8 rpg) and steals (2 spg). Wallace will be continuing his career at Florida National University in Miami.
Adding veteran leadership would be Gwynedd-Mercy commit, Donaven Spencer. The sophomore forward added stability on both ends for the Dukes as he was a vocal leader on defense and a calming presence on the offensive end. He would finish the year averaging 10 points/game and contributing 7 rebounds/game and 2 steals/game. He would share the frontcourt with freshman center, Luis Reyes. At 6'8, Reyes was an imposing force for the Dukes on the defensive end altering shots in the lane and clearing up space on the offensive end for his teammates. Many of Luis's contributions were off the stat sheet as he embraced his role set forth by the team.
A team geared towards a championship cannot survive without dedicated and talented role players. Kristopher Bobo, Kevin Clark, and SJ Hawkins were major contributors in this historic season. A sophomore, Bobo was a major spark for the Dukes off the bench hitting clutch shots and providing full-court defense frustrating opponents night after night. He would become a major player in the Region XIX Final Four as his defense and 3-point shooting would spark multiple runs for Cumberland. Freshmen SJ Hawkins was a force for the Dukes. In limited action, Hawkins averaged 14 points/game and 9 rebounds to become a feared threat for opponents. Standing at 6'8, he was tremendous for Cumberland down the stretch as he became a consistent inside scorer and a go-to player for the Dukes. Fellow freshman Kevin Clark was tremendous down the stretch for the Dukes as well. The guard averaged 10 points/game and performed his best in the biggest games of the season. In the Region XIX Champiosnhip game, Clark poured in 21 points and added 11 rebounds to keep the Dukes within range of winning their first ever Region XIX Championship.
The Dukes would reach the Region XIX Final Four for the first time in history and would win their first game, eliminating Rowan-Gloucester with a 75-74 victory. They moved on to face the Brookdale Jersey Blues in the Region XIX Championship game, with Brookdale carrying a 30-0 record and the #1 overall national ranking. At various points of the game, Cumberland either led or trailed by 2 points before Brookdale eventually won by a tight score of 70-62. Brookdale would move on and win the National Championship.
With the majority of the 2017-2018 roster returning, Cumberland fans are anxious to see them back in action this coming season. Unfinished Business will be the feeling around campus and the support to team will receive will reflect that.