By John Torenli, Sports Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
As we all learned during Sunday's tantalizing Super Bowl that one play, one non-call or even one extended power outage can dictate the outcome of a big game.
For LIU-Brooklyn, the difference between sitting alone in second place in the Northeast Conference and dropping into a three-way tie for third came down to a clutch floater in the lane by Robert Morris' Velton Jones and a missed 3-pointer by Blackbirds forward Jamal Olasewere in Saturday's gutwrenching 60-57 loss to the rival Colonials in front of 1,310 fans at the Wellness, Recreation and Athletic Center.
On the eve of Super Sunday, the Blackbirds (11-11, 6-4 NEC) and Colonials (15-8, 7-3) renewed their ongoing feud -- LIU beat Robert Morris in each of the last two NEC title games to earn consecutive trips to the NCAA Tournament -- by staging an epic back-and-forth affair that featured nine ties and 18 lead changes.
Jones, who sat out most of the Colonials' 71-61 loss to St. Francis Brooklyn on Remsen Street last Thursday due to an injured shoulder, made sure RMU laughed last during this Downtown visit, just getting his game-winning shot over the outstretched hands of Olasewere to give the visitors a one-point lead with 11 seconds to play.
A turnover by Troy Joseph on the ensuing possession led to two made free throws by Karvel Anderson before LIU got its last shot to force overtime. But Olasewere's prayer at the buzzer went unanswered, leaving the Blackbirds with a second loss in their last four home games after a 31-game home winning streak at the WRAC.
The defeat also ended LIU's six-game winning streak overall, and left first-year coach Jack Perri to lament what could have been.
“If we get one rebound, the outcome changes, but we didn’t, and the kid made a big-time shot,” Perri told the New York Post following his team's first defeat since an 86-75 home loss to Wagner on Jan. 10.
Jones' big shot and Olasewere's tough miss sunk the rebounding Blackbirds back into a deadlock with Wagner and Central Connecticut State for third place in the NEC. LIU will visit CCSU on Thursday night before Sunday's much-anticipated high noon showdown with St. Francis Brooklyn at the Barclays Center.
Olaswere, who is gaining steam as a legitimate NEC Player of the Year candidate, finished with 18 points and 12 rebounds. Junior point guard Jason Brickman added 19 points for the Blackbirds, who are doubtlessly hoping to avert another extended streak.
After dropping its first four games of the season, Perri's crew has won five in a row, lost six straight and put up six more wins before Saturday's tough loss.
Fresh off their impressive win over RMU, the Terriers failed to build on that momentum, dropping a 64-61 decision to visiting St. Francis (Pa.) at the Pope Center on Saturday afternoon.
Sophomore sensation Jalen Cannon recorded his 10th double-double of the season with 20 points and 11 rebounds for St. Francis, which fell to 9-12 overall and 5-5 in NEC play. Akeem Johnson put up 12 points and fellow senior Travis Nichols added 11 for the Terriers, who were brutal from long distance, managing just two 3-pointers in 22 attempts.
St. Francis will take a shot at NEC-leading Bryant (8-2) on Thursday before returning home for Sunday's Battle of Brooklyn game with LIU.
After a slow start to the season, the Bulldogs of Brooklyn College are finally on a roll, extending their season-high winning streak to four games with Monday night's 74-58 rout of first-place Baruch in a key CUNYAC Conference tilt at the West Quad Center.
Senior Kavon Baker of nearby Midwood High School led all scorers with 26 points on 8-of-13 shooting from the field and an 8-for-10 performance at the free-throw line. Fellow Brooklynite Jeffrey Noel added 20 points and six boards for the Bulldogs, who improved to 9-12 overall and, more importantly, 7-6 in the CUNYAC standings, keeping its hopes of locking up a No. 4 seed in the upcoming league tournament alive.
BC can climb into a tie for third in the CUNYAC with a win Wednesday at John Jay.
Freshman Jamel Gist scored a game-high 27 points and handed out seven assists Monday night as NYU-Poly posted its second straight victory with a 91-86 triumph at Yeshiva University. On the outside looking in at the Skyline Conference's final playoff spot, the Jays improved to 6-14 overall and 3-11 in league action.
NYU-Poly will try to make it three in a row and keep its slim playoff hopes alive Wednesday at 7 p.m. against visiting Old Westbury.
Though they're second-to-last in the NEC, the Blackbirds of LIU-Brooklyn's women's team continue to make strides.
Spearheaded by sophomore Letava Whippy's career-high 14 pionts and 15 rebounds Monday night, the Blackbirds knocked off second-place Saint Francis (Pa.), 61-43.
Whippy, who also dished out three assists, helped LIU (5-16, 2-8 NEC) to its first win in four games as it readies for Saturday afternoon's visit to the Pope Center to take on neighborhood rival St. Francis Brooklyn.
“It was a great performance, top to bottom, “said LIU coach Gail Striegler. “Everyone who went in really played hard. It was just good minutes by everybody that played. “
The Terriers tuned up for the Blackbirds with Monday night's dramatic 67-63 home win over Robert Morris.
Sophomore Sarah Benedetti scored 14 points, and shook off a 2-for-14 shooting effort by drilling what proved to be the game-winning 3-pointer with 31 seconds to play.
Sophomore forward Jaymee Veney added 13 points for St. Francis, which improved to 8-13, including 5-5 in the NEC.
The Lady Bulldogs of Brooklyn College won their seventh straight game by handing CUNYAC-leading Baruch its first league loss, 71-51, on Monday night at the West Quad Center.
The second-place Bulldogs boosted their season mark to 17-5 overall and 11-2 in CUNYAC action behind 23 points from Bishop Ford alum Vanessa D'Ambrosi. The Brooklyn native added nine rebounds, four assists and six steals for BC, which will try to make it nine in a row Wednesday at John Jay.
In local high school girls varsity action, the Blue Pride of Brooklyn Friends resumed its dream season with a 46-27 rout of Garden on Friday.
Coach David Gardella's surging team got 27 points, eight rebounds and eight steals from senior star Janna Jossainte, improving to 15-4 overall this year.
"The team is playing some great basketball," said Gardella, who will lead the Pride into postseason play Friday. "They are really playing team basketball. They have been very strong ont he defending end of the court all season, but now they are really moving the ball and stepping into their roles on the offensive end."
In other BFS news, the Blue Pride will be celebrating the 10th anniversary of their 2003 Class C State Championship team on Feb. 23 at the Pearl Street school.
A viewing of the documentary "Blue Pride", chronicling the Hoosiers-like journey of that team from heavy underdog to Glens Falls, N.Y. for the state tournament will be followed by a reception at the private school.