SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (February 27, 2019) – The American Collegiate Athletic Association (ACAA) released its men's basketball all-conference teams, with the Broncos earning two selections, as well as one major award, to cap off their ACAA championship season. For his efforts leading the Broncos to a 17-10 record and their first NCAA conference title, fourth-year head coach Zack Thomsen was honored as the ACAA Coach of the Year. Junior point guard Jordan Fragale (Baldwinsville, N.Y. / C.W. Baker) was named to the first team, while junior forward Payton Dean (Harpursville, N.Y. / Harpursville) received second-team recognition. It marked both players' second straight year earning All-ACAA accolades.
Standing at 5-8 at the halfway point of their season in late December, SUNY Delhi won ten of their final 12 regular season games, earning the second seed for the ACAA Tournament at Alfred State. In addition, the Broncos closed out their home season winning ten straight games for a 10-1 record in Floyd L. Maines Arena. Coach Thomsen's men went on to complete their winningest season in his tenure in terms of winning percentage (63.0), matching the same win total as Thomsen's first squad in 2015-16 that finished 17-13. All told, the Broncos ended the year winning 12 of their final 14 games, going a perfect 7-for-7 in their 2019 home contests.
"We started out a little slow this season, but I'm proud of the way our team stuck together and continued to improve throughout the season," said Thomsen. "We had every opportunity to fold when we were 5-8, but our guys never did. We showed great mental toughness and it's exciting to see that pay off and end with our first ACAA conference championship."
Delhi squared off Saturday against third-seed Pine Manor for the chance to face the host Pioneers in Sunday's conference championship. It appeared the Broncos would not get that chance, as they stared at a 12-point, 66-54 deficit with six-and-a-half minutes to play. But Thomsen's men stayed in the game, slowly creeping to within a point of the Gators at 75-74. Having possession with 14.3 seconds left, Fragale pulled up in the paint and buried the go-ahead jumper with 8.3 ticks remaining to advance Delhi to the finals.
The conference championship game carried a similar tune for Delhi, as they trailed by 13 at 65-52 with 10:13 remaining. Despite Dean fouling out and Alfred State in the double bonus by that point in the game, the Broncos rallied furiously. Behind, 75-67, with 3:35 left, Fragale, who finished with a career-high 27 points, supplied the late heroics for the second straight game, scoring five of the Broncos' final ten points. With the game tied at 75-75 in the closing seconds, Fragale drove the open lane along the baseline for the game-winning layup with 2.7 seconds remaining that gave SUNY Delhi the ACAA title, as well as the rubber-match win over the Pioneers. The two teams split a home victory in the regular season series.
Fragale was named the ACAA Tournament MVP, as Dean was honored to the All-Tournament Team. Fragale had 14 points with seven assists, five rebounds and five steals in the semifinals against Pine Manor, and 27 points with eight assists and five boards against the Pioneers. Dean totaled 19 points and ten rebounds versus PMC for his 11th double-double of the year, and carried eight points with ten boards in Sunday's title game in just 20 minutes of action.
Fragale's junior season saw him earn an ACAA Player of the Week award, and finish far and away as the ACAA's assists leader with 8.1 per game. He led the team with 13.4 ppg., totaling four 20-point games and five double-doubles, all in the points and assists categories. This marks the Baldwinsville, NY native's second straight year on the All-ACAA First Team. The Recreation & Sports Management major was also a USCAA All-American Honorable Mention last season.
Dean, too, received ACAA Player of the Week honors, and just narrowly missed out on averaging a double-double with 12.3 ppg. and 9.9 rpg., ranking fifth in the conference on the boards. He tallied three 20-point games to go along with his 11 double-doubles on the season, including a career-best 27 points against NVU Lyndon on Jan. 8. The Mechatronics major from Harpursville, NY was an All-ACAA Honorable Mention last season.
Thomsen returned just five players from last season, and filled out his roster with 11 noteworthy recruits. Returnees Dean, Fragale, Carlos Ithier and William Knight all came from Thomsen's first recruiting class in 2016, and each earned an ACAA Player of the Week award this season. Senior Saquan Goland was Thomsen's remaining returning player, joining the Broncos in 2017 as a transfer from Fulton-Montgomery CC. In his final career game Sunday, Goland stepped up in Dean's absence in the final ten minutes, and pulled down a crucial offensive rebound on Delhi's final possession that set up Fragale's game-winner to win the ACAA title.
From Thomsen's pool of recruits, junior transfer Justin Daoud was quick to make himself known to SUNY Delhi. The former Herkimer CC General ranked second on the team with 7.0 rpg. and fourth with 11.7 ppg., despite missing three games. But his finest moment as a Bronco in 2018-19 came at the ACAA Tournament. When all Delhi could do down by 12 against Pine Manor initially was make free throws, Daoud hit a baseline three that got the Broncos to within six at 67-61, igniting the 15-8 final comeback run. Then with the team behind, 75-69, in the championship versus Alfred State, Daoud scored five straight points on an and-one jumper and a layup to get the team within one, setting the stage for the Broncos' last-minute heroics.
Newcomers Jared Beach, Mavenson Therneus and Norman Wilson became valued additions to Thomsen and the Broncos over the course of the season. Wilson led the freshmen with 13 starts, averaging 6.6 ppg. through 25 games, while Therneus was the only freshman to play all 27 games, started in 12 of them, as well as leading the "fresh pack" with 7.7. ppg and 3.9 rpg. Beach came on as one of Delhi's top contributors, playing in 22 games, and played a critical role in the ACAA Finals. With the team Behind, 65-54, Beach made the Broncos' next four points, with his latter featuring him getting a steal and a fastbreak layup, to trim the margin to seven. Shortly after, trailing, 69-62, Beach made a 3-pointer to get the team to within four.