HOOP DREAMS: With five seconds remaining, Lenny Holt ’09 nervously approached the free throw line. Tied in a dead heat at 65 to 65, Vassar College and Oswego State (the number one and two seeded teams) had battled it out neck-and-neck all afternoon, vying for the ECAC tournament title. The crowd suddenly fell silent, all eyes on Holt as he stepped to the line. Taking the difficult shots with two points up for grabs, he bounced the ball at his feet and then sent it gliding through the air and into the basket. The crowd exploded as the Vassar Brewers suddenly edged ahead. The second shot bounced off the rim, sending both teams in a mad dash down the court as the clock ticked down. At the buzzer, Oswego’s three-pointer bounced in and out, the fans erupting as the Brewers clinched a historic win—the team’s first-ever ECAC title—in a 66-65 victory over Oswego.
“The play was so fast and my heart was pumping wildly,” recalls Holt. “I was so caught up in it and I had to calm myself down to make the free throw.” Moments before, he had received the ball from Lawrence Avitabile ’08 after a tricky rebound. “I knew time was running out, so I sprinted down the court and was fouled,” Holt continues. “Fortunately, the foul gave us time to regroup on the sidelines.”
“It was just a few seconds, but it felt like it took forever,” adds Avitabile.
For the Brewers, 2006-07 was a breakout season, and the first time the team qualified for the Liberty League playoffs since joining the league. The season kicked off early with a late-summer trip to Ireland, where, for the first time, they competed against the country’s top professional teams for eight days. Later, back on their home turf, the Brewers’ went on to win the most games (in league play) in school history, tied the school record for the most number of wins, and were the 17th best rebounding team in the country. In the end, not only had they fought for a spot in the playoffs, but they also emerged as champions.
The team’s momentum has been building for the past few seasons. Since his first year at Vassar, Avitabile has been one of the team’s driving forces. He was initially undecided about playing college ball. Once on the court, however, the forward quickly gained attention as he helped lead the team to a 12-12 record in 2004-05. That same year, Avitabile was ranked in numerous league statistical categories and was named Rookie of the Year, the first Vassar player to earn the title. By his junior year, he was also selected Liberty League first team all-conference, and recently joined the ranks of Vassar’s 1,000 point club, a list containing only 10 players.
Tyson Brazell ’08 has also emerged as a strong asset for the Brewers. As the ECAC tournament’s most valuable player, he led the Brewers with 28 points, pushing the team ahead with four assists and six rebounds. He was also selected for the Liberty League’s second team all-conference. “For a small school, we have a surprising amount of talent,” he says. “I think we could really do some damage.”
Fortunately, for the Brewers and coach Mike Dutton, most of the current line-up will be back in action this fall, including the top four leading scorers from the past season. After the team’s ECAC win, Dutton’s not afraid to set his sights higher. “Our goal for the upcoming season is to make the NCAA tournament.”