St. Francis' 2-0 start has Remsen Street buzzing with title talk
By John Torenli, Sports Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
It was supposed to be a season-opening two-game trip through Florida aimed at toughening the St. Francis Terriers up for the Northeast Conference portion of their schedule.
But by the time it was over, Remsen Street was abuzz with visions of March Madness in November.
Spearheaded by All-NEC First Team selection Jalen Cannon and freshman Wayne Martin of South Shore High School, the Terriers did the seemingly impossible last Friday night in Coral Gables, pulling out a history-making 66-62 overtime victory against defending Atlantic Coast Conference champion Miami before 6,060 fans at the BankUnited Center.
"This is one of the biggest wins, if not the biggest, in the history of our school," noted St. Francis coach and Brooklyn native Glenn Braica after his Terriers shocked one of last year's Sweet 16 entries on the road.
"They are the defending ACC champs, and are such a great program. I was particularly impressed that our guys had enough left at the end to pull this out after Miami had tied it up to force overtime. To have that kind of mental discipline is not an easy thing to do so it's a credit to them that they were able to hang in there."
Just to prove the landmark win wasn't a fluke, the Terriers went out and erased an 11-point deficit en route to beating Florida Atlantic, 59-57, Monday night at FAU Arena.
The narrow victory finished off a 2-0 road trip through the Sunshine State that may be the first indicator that this St. Francis team is finally ready to end the school's century-long NCAA Tournament drought.
Martin, who scored a team-high 17 points in the Terriers' upset of the Hurricanes, finished with 12 on 6-of-8 shooting against the Owls, hitting what proved to be the game-winner on a reverse layup with only 32 seconds to play.
"It was frustrating not playing much in the second-half because of foul trouble and the coaches were telling me to just stay ready for the last minutes of the game," said Martin, who led South Shore to the PSAL's Elite Eight as a senior in 2012. "I couldn't wait to get back in because I knew that I could help us pull it out. The coaches drew up a play for me on the high-post for the game-winning basket. I knew I had a bigger defender so I decided to spin around him and take a right-handed layup. I can't ask for much more to start my career but we have to keep getting better and be consistent."
"I'm just so proud of these guys for gutting out this win and showing a lot of heart," added Braica, who has guided the Terriers to the NEC Tournament in each of his first three seasons, but is doubtlessly eager to lead them even further this year.
Cannon, a junior power forward and the Terriers' heart-and-soul on and off the hardwood, had 14 points and 10 rebounds against Miami.
His layup with just over a minute remaining in overtime put St. Francis ahead for good against the Hurricanes.
Cannon and senior guard Ben Mockford had 15 points apiece against FAU as the Terriers continued to take Florida by storm in advance of their upcoming appearance in the Mainland Bracket of the annual Maui Invitational Tournament.
Braica's undefeated unit will visit the University of Dayton on Saturday afternoon hoping to continue what has already been an epic opening to what may become the greatest season in the history of St. Francis basketball.
Even if it’s not, however, the Terriers will always have their Friday night in Miami.