Jermaine Crumpton could have called it a career at Canisius College.
The forward from Niagara Falls was a redshirt his freshman season. He could have taken his fifth year of eligibility and gone to another school or hung up his collegiate sneakers altogether.
But he chose to come back and was rewarded with being a major component of one of the best seasons in modern Canisius basketball history.
Crumpton scored 13 points in the Golden Griffin's 98-74 win over Marist in the Koessler Athletic Center on Sunday afternoon.
At 15-3, it's the most regular-season wins for the Griffs in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.
At 21-10, it's tied for the most overall regular-season wins with the 1993-94 team.
And while the Griffs will be the No. 2 seed when the MAAC tournament opens in Albany on March 2, they still share part of the regular season title with Rider. Co-MAAC Champion. That's something Crumpton can always look back on, something he can point back to, as a proud moment in his athletic life.
"It means a lot," Crumpton said. "It means how much work we put in paid off. We get to leave a legacy. This group of guys can come back and say we were part of this championship. It's great for the program. Great for the area and it's something special."
"Jermaine stayed," said coach Reggie Witherspoon, in his second year at Canisius. "There's a lot of people moving around all over the place for their fifth year. I think it's great to see the reward of what has happened, so far, for someone who said I'm going to stay. He can come back and point to a banner and wear a ring on his finger and say there is some value to staying. It isn't always pack up your stuff and go. The grass isn't always greener on the other side."
While Crumpton closed out his Koessler Athletic Center career, freshman Takal Molson was just getting start.
Molson scored 24 points, one short of his career high and the sixth 20-point performance of his freshman season. For good measure, his 392 points are the most for a Canisius freshman since Ray Hall netted 454 points in the 1981-82 season.
But Molson doesn't really like to be called a freshman. It's just a label. And Molson is more than just a label. He's an aggressive player who can defend, be gritty and drop points.
"My approach is to be aggressive and help the team in any way possible and if it's scoring one night, if it's rebounding the next night, just whatever it takes," Molson said.
His versatility and his mentality have been a key for Witherspoon.
"He has kind of prided himself on not having the label of a freshman," Witherspoon said. "And I think that has really helped his approach. He hasn't backed down from any challenges at all. He allows us to challenge him and push him. He's accountable and is not afraid to say it's my fault, I've got that, I'll do better, in front of everybody. He takes on every challenge that we give him defensively. ... He's not your typical freshman."
Molson helped Canisius Sunday afternoon, particularly in the first half, when the Griffs found themselves down by nine, 20-11, just 5:53 into the game.
Molson didn't just score, he created some havoc on defense, including three steals and two blocks, to help Canisius find some momentum and change the tide of the game. Marist went without a field goal for the final 4:50 of the half and Canisius used a 9-0 run to take a 47-39 halftime lead.
With the exception of a quick Marist run early in the second half, the Griffs sailed to their 21st victory of the season.
"They really stuck it to us early," Witherspoon said of Marist. "They hit some threes, they spread us out, they did a really good job and we went small. We had to go small. They forced us to go small. We did and it worked."
Marist was led by junior forward Ryan Funk, a native of Clarence who played a season at St. Thomas More Prep in Connecticut. Funk had 17 points, including hitting 3-of-8 from three-point range.
The Griffs will play at 9:30 p.m. on Friday night in the Times Union Center in Albany. They face the winner of Thursday's first-round game between the No. 7 and No. 10 seeds.
Niagara secured the No. 3 seed and opens play at 7 p.m. Saturday night against the winner of Thursday's first-round game between the No. 6 and No. 11 seeds.