WRITTEN BY DAVID MENZE
Brooklyn Heights, N.Y. — St. Francis College Terriers came back in dramatic fashion on Thursday night to beat their NEC rival Quinnipiac University Bobcats in a 73-72 thriller that ended with senior forward Stefan Perunicic sinking the game-winning shot.
With just seconds left in the game Perunicic got fouled and went to the free-throw line with the opportunity to give his team the lead after converting the game-tying basket.
With ice water in his veins, Perunicic stepped up to the line and knocked down the foul-shot that gave the Terriers a one-point lead with just five seconds left to play.
Quinnipiac’s shooting sensation James Johnson had an outstanding game as the senior guard scored a game-high 28-points but failed crucially to nail the would-be game-winning shot as he missed a long three-point attempt that bounced off the front of the basket as time expired sealing St. Francis’ slim one-point victory.
Perunicic had a stellar performace scoring a team-high 21-points as the 6’6” Serbian also accomplished a milestone in the win by amassing over 1,000 points in his St. Francis playing career making him just the 27th Terrier all-time to achieve that honor.
Teammates Akeem Johnson had 18-points in the game as freshman forward Jalen Cannon provided 14-points of his own.
Brent Jones was the spark St. Francis needed off the bench as he scored 12-points and had a game-high two steals in the contest.
Just when it seemed as if the game was slipping away from St. Francis who trailed by five points with 3:49 to play, the team rallied around one another and played smart, mentally-tough basketball that proved to be the difference in the closing seconds of the game.
* Read the live play-by-play coverage below.
Final: St. Francis 73 – Quinnipiac 72.
Terriers win! Terriers win!
Perunicic hits the free-throw!
0:05 – Perunicic ties score after lay-up and foul. Has chance to take the lead with upcoming free-throw attempt.
0:24 – Quinnipiac trying to hold on to two-point lead (72-70).
St. Francis’ chances are slimming after Johnson knocks down two free-throws and gives Quinnipiac a seven-point lead with just under three minutes left in regulation.
2:51 – Quinnipiac leads 70-65 after a Perunicic three-pointer.
3:49 – St. Francis trails by six-points (68-62).
5:02 – Quinnipac leads 64-62.
6:00 – Perunicic ignites crowd yet again, this time with beautiful assist that leads to a Cannon slam-dunk.
Jones’ steal-and-score ties the game 60-60 for St. Francis.
8:43 – Quinnipiac takes 58-56 lead after Johnson’s game-high 23rd-point.
10:52 – Perunicic ignites the home crowd after hitting another three-pointer giving St. Francis a one-point lead (52-51).
14:10 – Quinnipiac ties score 43-43 after freshman forward Ousmane Drame converts conventional three-point play.
Cannon continues to shine as the freshman has 10-points and six rebounds, both team-high’s for the Terriers thus far.
16:10 – St. Francis takes 42-40 lead after Perunicic three-pointer.
Quinnipiac starts the second-half with the ball.
St. Francis is sporadic at times but free-throws and key bench players have kept the Terriers in the game.
St, Francis shot 80% (12-15) from the foul-line while Quinnipiac has only made five free-throws.
Terriers bench is outscoring Bobcats bench 11-5.
Johnson continues to be a nightmare on the court for St. Francis as the Bobcat guard has 17-points in 19-minutes of play.
The first half is balanced so far as there have been five lead changes and tied scores on three separate occasions.
Halftime: score tied 34-34.
Guard Justin Newton ties up score for Terriers 32-32.
3:13 – Quinnipiac leads 32-29.
Freshman forward Jalen Cannon leads St. Francis with eight points thus far.
6:24 – St. Francis trails 30-24.
Quinnipiac’s James Johnson is a one-man-show with a game-high 15-points already.
9:00 – Quinnipiac leads 25-20 after both teams trade baskets.
11:02 – Bobcats reclaim lead 20-17 after 6-2 run.
Guard Brent Jones gives Terriers first lead of game (15-14) with his three-point make.
14:00 – St. Francis ties up score 12-12.
Game gets off to heated start as Perunicic is called for an early technical foul.
Senior Stefan Perunicic has five of St. Francis’ eight points.
15:40 – Quinnipiac leads 11-8.
17:20 – Quinnipiac establishes early 7-3 lead.
Johnson controlls the tip-off for St. Francis but they are unable to capitalize on the possession and turned the ball over to Quinnipiac.
This game starts a 16-game stretch of non-stop North Eastern Conference opponents that St. Francis will face to conclude their season.
The Terriers are coming off a tough 79-70 loss against the Army Black Knights in West Point on Dec. 31 after leading Army by eight points at halftime.
The Black Knights came out of halftime on fire as they shot a scorching 80% (8-10) from three-point land as they improved their record to 6-8 on the year while St. Francis dropped to 4-9 thus far.
Army’s second-half surge was fueled by Julian Simmons who scored 22 of his 24 points in the second half. Simmons’ teammate Ella Ellis also had an impressive game for the Knights as he recorded 23 points and nine rebounds in the contest.
St. Francis and Quinnipiac are tied in their all-time series 10-10, however, Quinnipiac has won the last eight games in a row.
The last St. Francis victory over Quinnipiac was on January 28, 2006.