WRITTEN BY ROBERT DEVITA, AKEEM NELSON, BRYAN FONSECA, AND JULIA GIAMMONA
St. Francis Brooklyn men’s basketball fell just short against Robert Morris University Colonials (66-63) in a tight and dramatic NEC Championship game. There was no dancing tonight in The Pope as the Terriers season and NCAA Tournament hopes came to an end.
All good things must come to an end and unfortunately for the Terriers that statement proved to be true tonight. The Terriers were favorites from day one but the Colonials were able to outplay the boys from Brooklyn — by the margin of one basket in the end — in the most important game in program history to date.
The Terriers seemed to unravel at key points this evening. They looked like a team that were thinking of their every move out there and playing like that is never a recipe for success. The close score may not indicate it, but this was not the same Terriers team that finished in first place in the NEC during the regular season. Nowhere near it.
“Obviously it is very disappointing, the result tonight, and we’re all down, we’re all disappointed but I’m also real proud of my guys, they’ve had a great run,” said head coach Glenn Braica.
Despite controlling a (35-29) lead at the half the Terriers just couldn’t find their game in the second half and it was only a matter of time before the Colonials would start to pull away. The Colonials stifled the Terriers playing a 2-3 zone that flustered the Terriers offense.
Throughout the second half the Terriers would go on a few spurts but just couldn’t regain the lead after falling behind. Their effort was valiant but the outcome is more than disappointing. This team showed so much promise all season long and they left it all out there on the court this evening.
A team that prides itself on ball security struggled with that during the entire game. Tonight the Terriers turned the ball over a total of 17 times, which pays testimony to the Colonials’ defense that gave the Terriers fits all night long.
For the game the Terriers shot a horrid 9 of 22 from the free throw line for 40.9%. Looking back on this game the Terriers just left way too many points on the line and it cost them.
Down the stretch the Terriers had chances to actually pull away with this game but just failed to put the nail in the coffin. With 5:00 minutes remaining in the game the Colonials led by 10 and the Terriers looked nearly defeated.
But then junior guard Tyreek Jewell knocked down a three to cut the lead back down to seven. The Colonials were able to grab a point and push the lead back up to eight, but back came Jewell with another three pointer to bring the Terriers within five points.
The Terriers were able to get the lead down to as many as two and just when things started look like they were going their way the wheels completely fell off. Junior forward Chris Hooper missed a pair of free throws. The Colonials were able to get their lead back up to four, until Terriers’ sophomore guard Glenn Sanabria knocked down a three from way down town to cut the lead to one with only 16.2 seconds to play.
The Colonials were able to convert on a pair of free throws. Now Trailing by three, sophomore guard Yunus Hopkinson missed a wide open three with under seven seconds to play.
Jewell was able to corral the offensive board, brought the ball back behind the three point line, threw up a prayer and was fouled. He went on to miss all three attempts from the free throw line.
The game looked like it was over with 2.4 seconds remaining as all the Colonials had to do was hit one free throw. After a pair of missed free throws by the Colonials, Terriers senior forward Lowell Ulmer threw up a desperation heave from near half court and drew back iron and that was all she wrote.
Jalen Cannon and Brent Jones — St Francis stars all season with breathtaking performances — disappointed some scouts tonight with their future careers in the balance in this clutch game. They will take part in the NIT, but it is not nearly the same as winning the NEC Tournament and advancing to the big dance.
“I’m gonna use falling short as motivation, and also seeing how the community, students, and faculty all came together and supported us. I appreciate them to the highest level,” said Cannon.
In the biggest game in program history Cannon scored 10 points on 4 of 10 shooting from the field and grabbed 12 rebounds. The NEC player of the year saw double teams all night long and just couldn’t get his offensive game going.
Jones scored seven points on 3 of 8 shooting, dished out five assists but uncharacteristically turned the ball over four times. The Terriers were led by Tyreek Jewell who scored a game-high 19 points and kept the Terriers alive with his ability to knockdown the three ball.
“I wasn’t being a basketball player, and I was in foul trouble. I was playing with emotion and I kind of got it together when we were down 10, I was just being vocal you know … but sometimes it’s just too late,” said Jones.
The Terriers faithful packed The Pope tonight and rocked Brooklyn. Even though their beloved Terriers fell short, the fans never stopped believing and made this a hostile environment for the Colonials.
“Even with the disappointment tonight, this atmosphere that we had tonight, no one thought that was possible at St. Francis College,” said coach Braica.
With the victory for Robert Morris, they punch their ticket into the NCAA Tournament for the eighth time in program history, even though St Francis went 15-3 in regular season and Morris went only 12-6. Junior guard Rodney Pryor was named tournament MVP, after leading the charge for his team tonight scoring 17 points.
This is a heartbreaking loss for the Terriers who stretch their NCAA Tournament drought to 77 seasons. They will compete in the NIT but nothing will be able to compare to what the feeling would have been of competing in the big dance.