By Mikai Bruce
This past Saturday was an emotional one for some of the basketball players at SUNY Plattsburgh. It was senior night, marking the end of a four-year journey as a collegiate basketball player for six students on the men’s and women’s basketball teams.
Sheriff Conteh, Myles Jones, Erik Salo, Mya Smith, Kara Oatman and Misa Dowdell played in their final games at Plattsburgh. All players were honored before their games began and received an ovation from the attendees at Memorial Hall.
Both teams played against SUNY Oneonta Feb. 18 and the women’s team had their game first. Sitting at a record of 8-16 going into this game, the Cardinals were already out of the playoff picture, so this game was of little consequence.
All three seniors started in the Cardinals 51-61 loss against Oneonta. Smith recorded seven points, seven rebounds and one assist to finish her collegiate career.
“Basketball is basically my whole life. It keeps me sane, and having the girls around, it just makes me happy,” Smith said.
Dowdell recorded a career high six rebounds to wrap up her collegiate career.
“It honestly meant everything to me. I worked my whole high school and middle school career just to play college sports, so just being able to make it here and have a great team behind me, especially my senior year was like really good, so, it was fun,” Dowdell said.
Oatman and Smith both echoed similar sentiments. Above all else, they were thankful for their teammates being on this journey with them.
“My time at Plattsburgh was filled with lots of friendship, great moments, getting to know a lot of people on and off the court, and it’s been such a privilege being able to spend the last four years here,” Oatman said.
This was a team filled with a genuine appreciation and love for each other and even in defeat they still were the picture of class and camaraderie.
The men’s team had been eliminated from the playoff picture so their game was also of little consequence. All three seniors who were getting their send-off had some of their best games of the season. Although they lost 76-86, it was a special game.
Conteh had 18 points, just two points away from his career high. Jones finished with a team-high 24 points and was also a couple points away from his career high. Salo had just six points, but also had 11 rebounds and three blocks.
Conteh dazzled with his potent mid-range shooting, Jones lit it up from long distance and Salo was a force inside.
“As a Cardinal, I just tried to give it everything. I’m proud of our team, the coaching staff, the effort we gave on the court,” Conteh said. “Hopefully next year the team does what they’re supposed to do.”
Even in defeat, Conteh spoke highly of those involved with the team and even offered his support for the team following his departure.
“I loved my experience here. It’s probably been the best school I’ve been in. You feel a lot of support from the student body. I’ve loved it. I wish I could’ve spent more time here,” Jones said.
Jones was a transfer student this season and he chose to spend his final collegiate season at Plattsburgh.
“A lot of relationships were made, a lot of good and bad decisions were made. I wouldn’t change it or trade it for the world man,” Salo said, teary-eyed. “I couldn’t have asked for three better groups of guys.”
Salo seemed to mean every heartfelt word he spoke about his time at Plattsburgh and his teammates. He truly embodied what it means to be a part of something bigger than yourself, which is a team.
Smith, when asked to describe her Plattsburgh career, said “friendship.” Dowdell said “learning,” Oatman echoed “friendship,” Conteh said “wonderful,” and Jones said “memorable.”
Salo continued and said even when losing, he still had a good time with his teammates. This chapter of their lives is over and it was able to close with nothing but positive thoughts.