Coming off its best season in program history, the 2009-10 Bombers had a tough act to follow. Ithaca had transformed from a team full of seasoned veterans to a young squad with loads of talent.
After losing seven players from the 2008-09 team, that went 24–1 in the regular season, the Bombers welcomed seven freshmen to the roster. Head Coach Jim Mullins said he believed them to be the most talented freshman class to ever come through the program.
“If they stay together and stay healthy,” Mullins said. “This group of freshman could be one of the best teams in school history.”
The young class of newcomers did not disappoint in their first season as Bombers. All seven freshmen saw action throughout the season, and freshmen Eli Maravich, Sean Rossi and Andrei Oztelmel all saw significant playing time. Rossi, who was the team’s starting point guard, lead the nation in assists per game.
The team’s young pool of talent extended beyond the incoming class of freshman, with sophomore Jordan Marcus leading the team in scoring, averaging 18.2 points per game. Marcus’ highlight of the season was tying a 40-year-old program record when he dropped 45 points in the season opener against Hobart College.
Junior Phil Barera opened lots of eyes as well with his astounding field goal percentage. Barera’s field goal percentage was as high as 74 percent, which was the highest in the country at the time. He finished the season shooting a tremendous 65 percent from the floor, which ranked among the top in the country. Barera played behind East Region All-Star Jeff Bostic ’09 for his first two years as a Bomber, but proved his worthiness as a starter in his junior season.
“I’ve gotten better having to play against Jeff in practice for two years,” Barera said. “It has really helped me develop my game since I’ve gotten to college.”
With only two seniors on the roster, Mullins said it was definitely a season marked by inexperience, which ultimately gave way to a rollercoaster ride of a season. The team displayed this lack of experience in various spots throughout the season, but also gave its fans glimpses of brilliance.
After starting the season 2–2, the Bombers went on an eight-game winning streak. But the team struggled against conference rival St. John Fisher College, losing both games against the Cardinals by a combined 41 points.
Perhaps the Bombers’ most impressive game of the season was a 33-point win over Nazareth College on Jan. 8. However, it was Nazareth who wound up getting the best of Ithaca come playoff time. The Golden Flyers knocked off the Bombers in the first round of the Empire 8 Conference Championship Tournament, all but ending the Bombers’ hopes of a bid to the NCAA Championship Tournament.
However, Ithaca still found a way to end the season on a high note, as the Bombers closed out the season with two wins in Brockport, N.Y., to claim the Eastern College Athletic Conference Championship.
“The loss to Naz was heartbreaking,” Rossi said. “But winning the [ECAC] tournament should get us on a good step for next season.”
Rossi said he will work on his game with former Bombers’ superstar point guard Sean Burton ’09 this off-season. Rossi said working with Burton will really help his jump shot and finishes, and like the rest of the squad, he has very high hopes for next season.
“If we all have good summers and work hard, we have enough talent where no one is capable of beating us,” Rossi said. “We are going to be very good the next couple years.”