WRITTEN BY BRYAN FONSECA
In a doubleheader of Senior Day basketball between Mount Saint Mary’s and the St. Francis Terriers, the schools traded victories in two defensive match-ups. The Mount women were triumphant in a 57-40 over the Terriers; while St. Francis responded with a scrappy 55-49 win on the men’s side of things.
To start things off, the women’s basketball team led early on with an 8-2 run in the first quarter. Mount Saint Mary’s quickly took back the lead, and the two teams duked it out until the score was tied at 13 each to end the first quarter.
From that point on, The Mount locked-in defensively and only allowed six-second half points to enter halftime with a 24-19 lead.
The Mount then blew the game open with a 23-9 third quarter, and ultimately cruised to a 57-40 win over the Terriers.
“I thought this was easily the worst game we’ve played all year in every aspect of the game,” Terriers head coach John Thurston said. “We didn’t play with any toughness, any composure, didn’t follow any game plan. Anything we put up on the board was put out the window.”
The loss bumps the Terriers out of a possible shot at the playoffs with one-game left to play in the regular season. Terrier seniors Leah Fechko and Taylor Watson both started the game and were integral parts of the action.
Fechko posted a game-high 16 points, six rebounds and a team-best three steals. Watson grabbed three rebounds, recorded two steals and dished out an assist.
“I feel terrible for Leah and Taylor,” Thurston said. “You have an incredible example of someone who puts their heart and soul into every practice and every play, preparation and everything else. They deserve better than that. I feel terrible; as head coach it’s my responsibility.”
The victorious Mount Saint Mary’s ladies received a few standout performances on the afternoon. Jessica Harris scored a team-high 15 points and grabbed an additional eight rebounds. Sarafina Arthur-Williams added 11 points and four rebounds while Alexis Carter put up 10 points and grabbed seven boards.
With the loss, the Terrier women fall to (7-21, 4-13 NEC), and The Mount improve to (9-19, 7-10 NEC).
The Terrier women will return to the floor for the final time of the season on Monday night against Central Connecticut State.
Shortly thereafter, the two male squads took the floor, and it was a war from the jump.
The Terriers had the early edge; at one point holding a 20-11 lead with 7:27 to play in the first. The Mount then came back with a huge 19-4 run, heading into halftime with a 30-24 lead.
In what has become their trademark, the Terriers posted a huge second half, limiting the Mount to 19 points while pouring on 31 of their own. The Terriers edged out The Mount with a 55-49 victory.
“I’m happy for the guys but I told them it’s not time to be satisfied,” Terriers head coach Glenn Braica said. “We’re zero-zero on Wednesday night. We’ve got to focus, we’ve got to play hard, we’ve got to play smart, and we’ve got to play well. It’s great that we’re here but it’s going to be a war no matter who we play.”
In the win, the Terriers held Mount Saint Mary’s to a miserable 28.8% shooting, highlighted by a 21.6% shooting in the second half.
“We did a decent job. They’re (Mount) a tough team to guard; they’re very good,” Braica said. “They create a lot of problems so, I was proud of our guys.”
With no shortage of big performances, the Terriers were led by a few upperclassmen.
Amdy Fall continued his season-long block party by swatting six shots in today’s game. He also finished with 10 points and collected nine rebounds.
Senior Antonio Jenifer recorded his second consecutive double-double, and his sixth of the season with 14 points and 13 rebounds, both of which were team-highs.
“Coach wants me on the glass all the time, he told me he wants me to get 10 rebounds per game, so that’s my goal every night,” Jenifer said. “It feels better; we got over that hump, we couldn’t win two games back-to-back, but you get better over time. I think we can play better, but we’re going to keep moving forward.”
Point guard Yunus Hopkinson added 12 points and two steals, and part of his scoring was taking opponents off the dribble and knocking down some contested jumpers which electrified the Terrier faithful.
“I’m going to be honest with you, that just happened. I was just playing off of reaction honestly; I wasn’t looking for anything spectacular,” Hopkinson said. “We’re still growing as a team, every game we’re getting better and better. This definitely shows that we have grit.”
Senior guard Tyreek Jewell only finished with six points on a 2-of-14 shooting night, but he played a tremendous game in other areas. The two-way player grabbed 11 rebounds, played great lockdown perimeter defense, and was instrumental in forcing Junior Robinson to a 4-of-19 shooting night.
“It feels good to be able to do more than just score, I wouldn’t want people just to see me as a scorer,” Jewell said. “I love playing defense and rebounding – I feel like it helps us more. We know when we’re not playing up to par. Obviously no one is going to come and handover a basketball game so we’ve got to earn it.”
Mount Saint Mary’s were led by Elijah Long, who scored 16 points and grabbed eight rebounds, and B.K. Ashe, who netted 10 points.
With the win, the Terriers improve to (15-16, 11-7 NEC), while The Mount fall to (13-18, 10-8 NEC).
These two teams will square-off against one another in the first round of the NEC tournament which begins Wednesday night. By virtue of winning this game, the Terriers will host Wednesday’s action live from The Pope.
“It’s very hard (to see the same team within one week), but you know what? We don’t have a choice, so whoever they throw at us, that’s who we’ve got to play,” coach Braica said. “It’s a streetfight; they know what we’re doing, we know what they’re doing, and then it’s whose going to be able to execute and who’s tougher.”