SFC’s Jones and LIU’s Brickman Among Nation’s Elite
By John Torenli, Sports Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
LIU-Brooklyn’s Jason Brickman leads the nation in assists, recently became just the 14th player in NCAA history to register 900 career helpers and has the Blackbirds in contention for an unprecedented fourth consecutive Northeast Conference title.
Despite all those impressive statistics, the senior from San Antonio might also be the second-hottest point guard in Downtown Brooklyn at the moment.
St. Francis Brooklyn junior Brent Jones resumed his recent mastery at the playmaker’s spot Wednesday night in Fairfield, Conn., torching Sacred Heart for a career-high 28 points, eight assists and four rebounds as the Terriers posted an impressive 83-78 victory before 407 fans at the William Pitt Center.
“We had no answer for Brent Jones,” Sacred Heart coach Anthony Latina admitted after the 5-foot-10 point man hit 9-of-13 shots, all eight of his free throws and committed just one turnover in 37 spectacular minutes.
Jones, a Brooklyn native and graduate of the Bedford Academy, is averaging an NEC-best 9.1 assists in leading the title-hungry Terriers to a 4-3 mark in league play. He’s also scoring 12.7 points against NEC opponents, including 20 or more in three of his past five contests.
“He’s a totally different player than he was last season,” St. Francis head coach Glenn Braica recently said of Jones. “It has taken a couple of years, but he’s playing fantastic for us right now.”
In his head-to-head clash with Brickman earlier this month, Jones more than held his own. He scored eight points, dished out a game-high 12 assists and pulled down seven rebounds as the Terriers snapped a six-game skid in the Battle of Brooklyn series with a 78-73 triumph at the Pope Center on Remsen Street.
Brickman collected six points and 11 assists, but committed four turnovers to Jones’ one, giving St. Francis fans hope that they finally have found an answer to LIU’s brilliant offensive quarterback.
Of course, Jones has a long way to go before he can rival Brickman’s career-long production.
The Blackbirds’ Texas-bred playmaker guided LIU to a much-needed 75-71 win over visiting Mount St. Mary’s last Saturday afternoon, scoring 14 points and handing out 12 assists for his eighth double-double of the campaign.
Brickman also climbed to 13th all-time on the career assists list with 905 entering Thursday night’s showdown with visiting Wagner.
Second-year LIU coach Jack Perri knows that with Brickman playing at a high level, the Blackbirds will always have at least a puncher’s chance of reaching their fourth straight NCAA Tournament, despite the loss of proven stars like Julian Boyd, Jamal Olasewere and C.J. Garner this season.
“Anybody could win the league,” Perri noted. “Simply because I have the best point guard, I think, in the country and I have some good pieces around him, if they can gain some confidence then who knows.”
Brickman, who led the nation in assists as a junior en route to grabbing his third straight NEC title, currently paces the NCAA with 9.8 assists per game.
Fortunately for Brooklynites, the rival point guards will go mano-a-mano once again in a little over two weeks at the Barclays Center, with LIU hosting St. Francis on Feb. 16.
The Blackbirds, just 2-4 in NEC action, are deadlocked with Saint Francis, Pa., for the final two tournament slots.
If they can’t play their way back into the conference championships, it might be Jones instead of Brickman representing Downtown in the NCAA Tournament come March.
That would certainly be an unexpected, but well-deserved, changing of the guard in our fair borough.
In other local men’s college hoops action, the Bulldogs of Brooklyn College beat up on Medgar Evers, 89-68, on Wednesday night at the Cougars Cave on Bedford Avenue.
Sophomore Egzon Gjonbalaj of FDR High School scored a career-high 27 points, grabbed eight rebounds, handed out five assists, blocked a pair of shots and picked up two steals for BC, which improved to 6-12 overall, including 3-7 in CUNYAC action.
On the women’s side this week, the Terriers suffered their first loss in eight home contests, dropping a 73-62 decision to Wagner on Monday night.
Junior forward Jessica Kaufman, who has helped St. Francis (13-6, 4-4 NEC) to its best season in nearly three decades, scored a career-high 20 points, including 15 in the second half.
"Jessica had a great second half that really helped us keep the game close," said second-year Terriers head coach John Thurston, whose team has lost a season-high three in a row following a seven-game winning streak and brilliant 12-3 start to the campaign.
"We are a team that relies on our 3-point shooting, that is a big part of our success and it hasn't been there for us in the last couple of games,” Thurston noted. “When one person is making shots everyone makes them and vice versa. It's something that teams go through in the course of the season. I told the team in the locker room, whether you are in the NBA or in college, teams go through some bad times. It's how you bounce back that matters."
The Terriers will look to get back on track Saturday at home against Central Connecticut State in their annual "Shoot for a Cure" game as they continue their efforts to raise Breast Cancer Awareness.
The LIU women continued to struggle with Monday’s 84-76 loss to visiting Saint Francis, Pa., at the Steinberg Wellness Center.
Senior Cleandra Roberts scored 23 points and junior Letava Whippy added 11 points and a career-best 15 rebounds for the Blackbirds, who slipped to 4-15 overall and 2-5 in NEC play.
LIU will return to the hardwood Saturday at home against Bryant.
The Lady Bulldogs of BC topped Medgar Evers, 71-31, on Wednesday night behind 19 points and seven boards from senior Megan Campbell.
Junior Carissa Williams added nine points for Brooklyn College, which improved to 14-5 overall and 7-3 in the CUNYAC.
The Bulldogs will welcome Lehman College to the West Quad Center on Saturday.
Over at St. Joseph’s College, senior Megan Moran scored a career-high 24 points as the Lady Bears overcame a 14-point, second-half deficit en route to an 87-78 victory over Yeshiva University on Wednesday night at Brooklyn Tech High School.
Moran reached double figures in scoring for the sixth time in seven games as the Lady Bears improved to 11-8 overall this season, including 3-1 in the Hudson Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
On the neighborhood high school hoops scene, freshman guard Brendan Greenberg drilled a 3-pointer at the buzzer Wednesday night as the Blue Pride of the Brooklyn Friends school squeaked by visiting local private school rival St. Ann’s, 52-51.
On Tuesday, the BFS girls beat Randolph, 36-25 to pick up their 11th win of the season while improving to 9-5 in Independent School Athletic League play.
Junior Julia Breen scored 17 points and grabbed 18 rebounds for BFS, which is still hoping to nail down a playoff spot with two regular-season games remaining.
Seniors Julia Greenwald, Chloe Burton, Sarah Murray and Aria Cato were all acknowledged by the crowd in what may have been their final home game at the Pearl Street School.