BLOOMFIELD, NJ-- Gerald Holmes' coaching success at Bloomfield College has long been centered around a well conditioned team, used to an up-tempo style, especially at its home court, 'The Den'.
But while Bloomfield home games have been typically in the mid to high 80's, and into the 90's, this year's B.C. Bears have also made a serious commitment to a stifling defense.
In the early going of the 2019-2020 season, that emphasis has resulted in a 3-1 start for the Bears, including an impressive 75-67 win over a (NCAA Division 2) nationally ranked team, in St. Anselm, of New Hampshire, on Nov 20, in Bloomfield's home opener, after playing three on the road to start the season.
The Bears were scheduled to play at Molloy College, on Nov. 23, at 2 p.m. and return home to play the University of Bridgeport, on Nov. 26, starting at 7 p.m. A huge Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC) game is also on the horizon, on Dec. 7, as the Bears host Dominican College, at 3 p.m. The teams met for the post-season conference title last March 10, with Dominican prevailing, to gain the automatic NCAA Tournament bid.
Holmes, who is in his 18th season as the team's head coach, after a season as an assistant, in 2001-2002, has won over 300 games while leading the Deacons (and subsequently the Bears) to seven conference titles and eight appearances in the NCAA Tournament. Eleven of Holmes' teams have won CACC regular season championships while the 2011 squad advanced to the Elite 8, after winning the East Regional championship. Bloomfield is the only CACC team to win an NCAA regional championship in men's basketball. Holmes has also been named the CACC Coach of the Year on four occasions.
The win over St. Anselm was especially big for the Bears, since the Hawks were unbeaten coming into the game at Bloomfield and ranked highly in the NCAA's early rankings. Wins against quality opponents do go a long way in not only qualifying for the NCAA Tournament, but earning a higher seed.
Last year, the Bears won 21 games but were denied the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, which comes from winning the CACC Tournament, when it lost to Dominican in the title game. The team didn't receive an at-large bid last season, either.
"These are important games," Holmes said after the St. Anselm game. "Last year, we lost out-of-conference games to strong opponents and that hurt us when it came to an at-large."
Bloomfield opened the season by defeating LeMoyne College, 62-59, and The College of St. Rose, 75-63, each on the road, before losing to the University of the District of Columbia, 84-77, in Washington, D.C. It then won its first home game, over St. Anselm.
"You saw the scores," said Holmes of his team's first four games. "When we play defense, we win. We didn't do that in Washington, DC, and that's why we lost."
Versus St. Anselm, Bloomfield led, 37-29 at the half, as the Bears' 3-point shooting was the difference in a late first-half surge. B.C. shot nearly 50% from 3-point range in the game and were led by Safee Abdus-Sabur's game-high, and now, career-high 29 points. Darin Bellinger scored 15 points, including 5-for-8 from 3-point distance and Matt Lajeunesse had 11 points. Abdus-Sabur and Lajeunesse also had a double-double, with 12 and 11 rebounds respectively.