SFC, LIU and BC women all done for the season
By John Torenli, Sports Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The St. Francis Brooklyn women’s basketball team broke virtually every significant program record in the history of the Remsen Street school this season.
But they couldn’t break through and earn their first-ever trip to the NCAA Tournament, suffering a disappointing 58-53 loss to fourth-seeded Bryant in Smithfield, R.I., on Sunday in the quarterfinal round of the Northeast Conference Tournament.
“We had the most conference wins, the most home wins, the most overall wins, so basically we broke all of the school records,” Terriers second-year coach John Thurston told the Eagle on Wednesday.
“We finished No. 1 in the league in defense. We were first or second in most of the major statistical categories in the league. It was also the first time ever in the history of the program that we were ranked in the mid-major top 25.”
Since taking over the reins prior to the 2012-13 campaign, Thurston has guided the Terriers to a 15-win improvement.
They finished this season 19-11 overall, including 10-8 in the NEC, after years of bringing up the rear in the league standings.
But a trio of overtime losses, coupled with a pair of narrow defeats down the stretch, relegated St. Francis to the No. 5 seed instead of opening the tournament at home, where the Terriers posted a sparkling 12-2 mark.
“Unfortunately, we were on the road,” Thurston lamented after his team nearly overcame a 14-point deficit over the final four minutes against the Bulldogs, who were scheduled to meet top-seeded Robert Morris in Wednesday’s semifinal round.
“It’s always a disappointment to end your season whenever your season ends,” Thurston added. “When you look back on the season, we had three overtime losses and a 3- and 5-point loss that those games could have easily gone the other way.”
The good news for the Terriers is that they’ll have a strong returning cast in 2014-15, not to mention what Thurston described as an “outstanding” crew of fresh recruits.
Junior tri-captain Katie Fox scored a career-high 14 points and matched her career best with seven assists in the loss to Bryant.
Juniors Sarah Benedetti and Jaymee Veney and sophomore Leah Fuchko, a 2014 All-NEC Defensive Team selection, each chipped in with 12 points in the Terriers’ finale.
All of those players, as well as All-NEC Second Team pick Eilidh Simpson, will be back for Year Three of the Thurston era.
“I’m excited about next year’s team because we do have people coming back and we had an outstanding recruiting year,” Thurston noted. “Anytime you can challenge veterans with talented newcomers, it’s a good thing. So that’s what we’re looking forward to next year.
“There’s only one team that ends the season with a win. I thought it was a great year. I think anytime your program improves by eight wins the first year, 15 wins over two years … there’s not many teams in the country that can make that claim.”
The LIU-Brooklyn women used a late-season run to grab the eighth and final seed in the NEC Tournament, and seemed poised to stun No. 1 Robert Morris Sunday in Moon Township, Pa., before enduring a tough second half in an eventual 65-49 loss.
Sophomore Sophie Bhasin scored a team-high 14 points and senior center Cleandra Roberts posted her eighth double-double of the campaign with 13 points and 13 rebounds in the quarterfinal defeat, which left the Blackbirds with a 9-21 overall record, including 7-11 in NEC play.
LIU actually took a 31-24 lead into halftime against the Colonials, thanks to a scintillating 52 percent shooting effort over the opening 20 minutes, including a dizzying 60 percent clip from 3-point range.
But RMU star Artemis Spanou spearheaded a furious second-half charge by the Colonials, finishing with game highs of 22 points and 15 rebounds as the Blackbirds faded down the stretch.
"They're just a very, very good basketball team," LIU Brooklyn head coach Gail Striegler ceded. "It's hard when you have a player of [Artemis] Spanou's capabilities. They're a very good team, a very good defensive team, and I expect them to have a great end of the season, just like they have since the beginning.
"I give our kids all the credit in the world," Striegler added. "They played hard from start to finish; we just couldn't score in the second half. And a part of that was what [RMU was] doing defensively, and a part of that was that we just didn't hit the shots. Our team has had a lot of heart from the beginning of the year, and it's a great group of kids."
Though they were eliminated from the CUNYAC Tournament by Baruch earlier this month, the Brooklyn College women’s team nearly earned a major consolation prize over the weekend.
Junior Carissa Williams scored a team-high 12 points and senior Megan Campbell added 11 points, six rebounds and three blocked shots as the Lady Bulldogs suffered a 65-53 loss to Kean University in Staten Island on Sunday night in the championship game of the annual ECAC Division III Tournament.
Junior Nicole Francomano had 10 points, five assists and three steals and junior Nacirena Mann collected eight points and nine boards for BC, which finished the season with an impressive 22-8 mark en route to its second straight runner-up finish in the ECAC Championships.
"We played an excellent Kean team and didn't quite match their physicality in the first half," said BC head coach Alex Lang.
"After going down 12 at the break, we regrouped and came back in the second half to cut the deficit a few times, however we didn't get some key stops, and could not convert enough baskets together to come all the way back and win. I'm proud of my team and our season. Winning more than 20 games for the third consecutive year is no easy task. We finished with more wins than any team in our conference and tied for the second most in Brooklyn College history. That's something to be proud of."