St. Francis squanders 19-point lead in first-round NEC loss
By John Torenli, Sports Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The historic drought continues on Remsen Street.
The St. Francis men’s basketball team, which has yet to reach the NCAA Tournament, was denied that opportunity yet again Wednesday night in Emmitsburg, Md., following an epic collapse during a 72-71 defeat at the hands of Mount St. Mary’s in the Northeast Conference Tournament quarterfinals.
Up 19 points with just over nine minutes remaining, and leading by nine with under two minutes to play, the fifth-seeded Terriers (18-14) appeared poised to reach the NEC semifinals for the first time since 2003.
Instead, the Mount’s Rashad Whack capped a wild game-ending run by drilling a go-ahead 3-pointer with only 2.4 seconds remaining to give his team the lead for good and hand the Terriers their eighth consecutive quarterfinal defeat in tournament play.
"We should have gotten to the finish line,” St. Francis head coach Glenn Braica glumly admitted. “Bottom line is we should have finished it out, we didn't. That's life. We live with it. We face up to it."
The Terriers, who looked like the team to beat in the NEC earlier this season, fell off precipitously following the emergence of a sexual assault scandal at the Downtown school last month, which resulted in the arrest of two players and suspensions to five, two of whom were eventually reinstated.
All-NEC First-Team selection Jalen Cannon was limited to only eight points in the loss, leaving him one more opportunity during his senior season next year to help the Terriers get over the hump in the NEC Championships.
"I'd trade it all,” Cannon confessed after another stellar individual campaign. “I'd rather win than get accolades, but like coach said, live and learn from the mistakes. We turned the ball over at key times. I would trade everything for just one playoff win."
Junior Lowell Ulmer led the Terriers with 18 points and senior Ben Mockford and junior Amdy Fall added 10 apiece as St. Francis was left to lament what could have been.
"It's a very difficult defeat,” Braica conceded. “It's hard, but you take it like a man and you move forward. You don't make excuses and you move on from it and you learn from it. For the seniors, it's unfortunate they won't get another crack at it. For the guys who are back, they need to learn from it moving forward."
The fifth-seeded St. Francis women will open NEC Tournament play Sunday against No. 4 Bryant in Smithfield, R.I.
The Terriers won a program-record 19 games this season and are hoping to reach their first-ever NCAA Tournament with three more victories in the playoffs behind junior stars Sarah Benedetti and Eilidh Simpson.
“It would have been nice to play at home, but I think we’re a good enough team to play anywhere and come out on top,” Benedetti said of the upcoming tournament.
“I think we need to just focus on our philosophy of basketball. We can go all the way. The goal is to go all the way and make it to the NCAAs.”
Eigth-seeded LIU-Brooklyn will also compete in the women’s NEC Tournament, beginning Sunday at No. 1 Robert Morris in Moon Township, Pa.
Having been ousted from the CUNYAC semifinals by Baruch earlier this month, the women of Brooklyn College did qualify for the ECAC Division III Final Four with Wednesday night’s 50-47 victory over Elmira at the West Quad Center.
Senior Megan Campbell extended her career with the Lady Bulldogs by scoring a team-high 18 points and blocking three shots as BC (21-7) advanced to face second-seeded College of Staten Island on Saturday.
On the local girls’ high school basketball scene, Bishop Kearney delivered a pair of champions to our fair borough last weekend as both the varsity and JV squads won the Brooklyn/Queens Diocesan titles on March 1.
Emily Hiltunen scored 23 points and Emily Bosiacki added nine as the varsity squad stormed past St. John’s Prep, 55-28, to earn a spot in the city championships.
Jessica Diaz had 12 points and Gabriella Rafaniello added nine as the junior varsity knocked off Bay Ridge rival Fontbonne, 40-32.