Shortly after the big ball dropped on 42nd street, it was time for the Yellowjackets to gear up and score some balls of their own.

The men’s basketball team started its 2009 season on Jan. 5 at Clarkson University. The highly contested battle would prove to set the tone for the first six games of the year. The ‘Jackets went 5-1 in their last six games, improving their overall record to 11-3. But while the record is impressive, the games also took a toll on the team.

The ‘Jackets’ one loss was an untimely one in the semifinals of the JP Morgan Chase Tournament.

The ‘Jackets’ first game was against the Clarkson University Golden Knights on Jan. 5.
UR was able to out-hustle the Knights, gaining a quick 11-0 lead in the opening two minutes, of play.

Yet the Knights were able to successfully come back, taking a 24-23 lead with six minutes, two seconds to go in the first half.

Senior guard Max Kaplan scored two 3-pointers that helped propel the ‘Jackets to a 12-point lead at the end of the half.

In the second half, UR led by as much as 18 points, but the Knights managed to cut down the lead to 62-61 with only 18 seconds left on the clock.

After a brief time-out, the ‘Jackets were able to seal the deal with three crucial free throws the first one came from sophomore guard Mike Labanowski, and the last two left the fingertips of Kaplan. The eventual victory ended the Knights’ six game winning-streak.
With just two days to wipe the sweat trickles from their foreheads, the ‘Jackets continued their road trip with a matchup against the Brandeis University Judges.

The ‘Jackets had a slow start but were able to end the half with a 35-29 upper hand.
Freshman forward Bill Serle and sophomore forward Wilson Rose came off the bench to score two 3-pointers that were instrumental in giving the Yellowjackets the lead.
This was Rose’s first action of the season. Serle would finish the game with a total of eight points, while Rose had a total of three points and one assist.

The Judges momentarily gained a 38-37 lead in the beginning of the second half, but the ‘Jackets quickly defused the situation with consecutive 3-pointers from Kaplan, Labanowski and senior guard Mike Chmielowiec. The consistent 3-point shooting ushered in a 19-5 advantage, giving the Yellowjackets their largest lead of the game.
Though Brandeis’s Andre Roberson was able to bring the Judges back, 69-71, with a 3-pointer, a costly foul on Chmielowiec led to Brandeis’ demise.

In the end, the ‘Jackets topped the Judges, 73-69. Chmielowiec tied his career-high with 25 points, plus he added five rebounds and two assists.

The following game would prove to be one of UR’s best performances of the year.
In a showdown against NewYork University, Labanowski and Chmielowiec combined for a monstrous total of 53 points.

Labanowski scored a career-high 21 points five of his field goals were 3-pointers in addition to four assists and six rebounds. Chmielowiec also scored a career-high 32 points he, too, banked five 3-pointers with five rebounds and three steals.
Serle also had a career-high, notching 13 points of his own.

The ‘Jackets came out on top, 79-68, and the win put UR on its way to the JP Morgan Chase Tournament as the top-seeded team.

In the opening round of the tournament, the Yellowjackets were able to control the Keuka College Storm for the majority of the game.

The Storm came within four points in the early part of the second half but lost all momentum following consecutive 3-pointers from Labanowski, Kaplan and Serle.
Kaplan’s well-rounded contribution of 12 points, eight assists and four steals were vital to the team’s victory.

The ‘Jackets’ 65-54 win allowed them to advance to the semifinals against the fourth seeded team, St. John Fisher.

The Yellowjackets’ fourth game of the year was a tolling and physical matchup.
They were effective in the first half, scoring 15-26 from the court and 7-9 from behind the arc. However, Chmielowiec had to be taken out of the game due to a foot injury seven minutes into the first half. X-rays on the foot would later come back negative. Even so, he is still recovering, though he hasn’t participated in practices up to this point.
Regardless, the ‘Jackets were able to end the quarter with a solid 38-34 lead.

In the second half, everything seemed to be working for St. John Fisher, who was able to accumulate 24 bench points over UR’s nine, and 15 points off of turnovers over the ‘Jackets’ seven.

With two minutes, 45 seconds left in the second half, the Yellowjackets were handed a major blow when Labanowski was fouled while driving to the hoop.

The hard foul caused a serious knee injury that will require surgery. Labanowski is currently on crutches and will be out of action for the entire season.

The injuries, among other things, ultimately led to the Yellowjackets’ demise, as the team lost to St. John Fisher, 66-71. Head coach Mike Neer reflected on the loss to Fisher.

‘Mike [Chmielowiec] is our best scorer, and he had to miss three quarters of the game,” Neer said. ‘On top of that was Labanowski’s injury toward the end.”

The coach also attributed the loss to undisciplined fouls.

‘Fisher would often use dribble penetration and score a lot of points at the line,” Neer said. ‘We led for most of the game, and we had opportunities to come back toward the end. But, down the stretch, they were able to score half their points at the line.”

Though there were many questions as to how the team would perform without two of their key players, other players were able to step up to the plate during the Chase third-place matchup against SUNY Geneseo.

Serle was able to shatter his career-high by scoring 22 points. Not to mention, he grabbed six rebounds and two assists.

Junior guard Colin Cubit also had a great career performance with 19 points and eight rebounds.

Another bench player, junior guard John Charlesworth, made some key plays in the 81-63 win.

The Yellowjackets are preparing for their first home game of the new year against Washington University in St. Louis this Friday at 8 p.m. The ‘Jackets will have to play without both Mikes.

‘We’re practicing hard,” Neer said. ‘We’ll have to close rank and march hard.”

Nathaniel is a member of the class of 2011.

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