By John Bernstein
The men’s basketball season is slowly approaching its conclusion. With only three games remaining in the regular season — all against University Athletic Association foes — using the word “last” is starting to become an all-too-common occurrence: the last game against a rival, the last points one scores this season and, more specifically for the Yellowjackets, the last steps in what could very well be a UAA crown and automatic berth to the NCAA tournament.
However, for some players, “last” carries an even more final, end-all connotation. Seniors Mike Labanowski and David Gould a played in the last home games of their tenures with the ‘Jackets, all three putting the finishing touches on distinguished careers at the Palestra — the place where it all began.
As to the actual outcomes of these games, the trio couldn’t have asked for a better send-off. The home team expelled the perennially dangerous Washington University in St. Louis Bears, 83-78, on Sunday.
“It was really special to be able to play my last regular season game against Wash U and get a win,” said Gould. “Every year playing against those guys is always one of the toughest games of the year and to get a win against them in my last regular season game in the Palestra was special.”
Gould couldn’t have been more spot-on in his description. The Bears roared to a 21-6 lead with 12:44 left in the first half, clawing mercilessly at a clearly shaken Yellowjackets defense. The yellow and blue quickly regained composure, however, in the next three minutes.
Labanowski led the charge with a three-pointer and was quickly followed up by sophomore John DiBartolomeo and junior Chris Dende with treys from the arc, as well. Fellow junior Nate Novosel made the score 25-19 with a layup.
The rest of the half was a back-and-forth battle, with freshman Nate Vernon scoring five points in the span to help keep UR in hot pursuit of the Bears, down 38-35 at halftime.
A 13-2 Wash U rampage to open the second half left the Yellowjackets reeling once again, but for a second time the home team found a way to close the gap — and take a lead in the process. Dende answered the Bears with five more points, and DiBartolomeo threw in a layup to pull ahead, 61-60, with 7:40 remaining in regulation.
Though the Bears continually fought back to remain within clawing distance of the ‘Jackets, they would never regain much of an edge on the home team. With a narrow 81-76 lead with 23 seconds to go, a member of the yellow and blue was sent to the foul line with the chance to put the ‘Jackets up for good.
Of all people, it just so happened that Gould was that player. And in the game’s final moments, the senior guard knocked down two of four to seal the win — a more fitting ending to his career unimaginable.
The Yellowjackets take on Carnegie-Mellon on Friday, Feb. 18 in Pittsburgh before wrapping up their regular season the following week at Case Western on Sunday and Emory the following Saturday. The game against Emory may well decide the UAA champion, as Emory is currently one game behind.
Bernstein is a member of
the class of 2014.