WRITTEN BY BRYAN FONSECA
After an amazing turn of events, the St. Francis Terriers were able to steal one in their rival’s home by defeating the LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds in overtime 74-69 en route to their ninth straight victory.
Jalen Cannon finished with game-highs in points and rebounds with 26 and 15 respectively, and he also set two records in this contest.
Cannon became the Terriers all-time leading scorer in men’s basketball history by surpassing the previous mark of 1,662 set by Ricky Cadell.
The senior forward also tied the NEC conference double-double record by recording his 18th in the 2014-15 season.
Both teams came out of the gate looking to make the rivalry game a very physical affair, and after committing a combined 66 fouls, it’s safe to say that they did just that.
The Blackbirds controlled much of the first half, and at one point led 23-12 before the Terriers orchestrated a 12-0 run to retake the lead. Both teams ended up trading leads down the stretch before the Blackbirds ultimately led 32-27.
Being one of the best rebounding teams in the NEC all year long, the Terriers came into the game with an advantage on the glass with their inside presence.
The Blackbirds however started off creating a ton of second chance opportunities and cleaning the defensive glass by out-rebounding the Terriers 26-16 in the first half alone.
In the second half the Terriers quickly took back the lead by storming out to 38-34 lead after an 11-6 run. Both teams kept it close for the remainder of the game, and the Blackbirds were in a position to close with one minute to play.
The Blackbirds squandered the ultimate chance to put the Terriers away when they led 58-54 heading into the final minute of regulation.
The Terriers extremely stout defensive play stopped the Blackbirds on multiple possessions during the final minute of regulation. With a late opportunity to steal the game, these defensive stops eventually led to offensive chances.
Junior forward Amdy Fall cut into a three point Blackbird lead with a nifty inside post move before making a lay-up as the Terriers then trailed 59-58. Literally seconds later, sophomore guard Yunus Hopkinson made a tremendous heads up play to steal the ball and lay it in giving the Terriers a 60-59 lead with 23 seconds to go in regulation.
Two free throws from senior point guard Brent Jones gave SFC a 62-59 lead with 18 seconds remaining, and a golden chance to put the game away after senior forward Kevin Douglas went to the foul line for two attempts.
Douglas missed both attempts, and committed a foul on the other end that sent freshman guard Martin Hermannsson to the line for three free throws.
Hermannsson stepped up in the most clutch moment imaginable and swished in all three free throws. The Blackbirds regained possession shortly thereafter but senior guard Gerrell Martin missed a three-pointer to close out regulation, and the game went into overtime.
Both teams continued to make several trips to the free throw line in the extra period, and neither team was taking complete control until the emergence of Amdy Fall down the stretch.
Fall continued his season long block party by swatting three shot attempts in the last 1:39 of overtime. Fall also nailed two free throws and was the recipient of a huge alley-oop assisted by Brent Jones.
Free throws made by Fall, Cannon, Jones, and Hopkinson, along with the continuation of key defensive stops, did just enough to hold LIU Brooklyn off and give the Terriers their ninth straight victory.
As previously mentioned, Cannon finished with game-highs in points and rebounds, and he also collected 16 of his 25 points from the foul line. His 16 free throw makes and 19 free throw attempts were both career highs.
Fall’s emergence was pivotal late in the game, especially considering that three Terriers had fouled out, and Fall finished with eight points, nine rebounds, and six blocks to his credit.
Jones finished with 12 points and three assists on the night, and despite not being able to find his shot, he remained in attack mode and shot six of eight from the foul line.
The aforementioned Hopkinson logged in a lot of minutes for the Terriers in the absence of freshman guard Glenn Sanabria, and he was all over the floor. His scrappy efforts gave him a game-high four steals, and he also scored seven points while dishing out three assists.
Senior forward Lowell Ulmer was a big part of the Terriers’ effective play on defense before he eventually fouled out, and he has continued his elevated level of play by finishing with 11 points on the evening. Ulmer also recorded one momentum shifting rejection late in the second half.
Blackbirds’ senior guard Gerrell Martin led the way for the Blackbirds by scoring 12 points, nine of which were in the opening period.
Freshman forward Nura Zanna was big time for the Blackbirds by finishing with 12 points, nine rebounds, and a couple of blocks to complete his night before fouling out late in the game. His absence was tough to recover from for the Blackbirds.
The Terriers now improve to (21-9) overall with this victory, and the NEC regular season champions now improve to (15-2) on the conference.
The playoff bound Blackbirds fall to (12-16) overall and (8-9) in the conference as they still struggle to find favorable position. Both teams will be back in action on Saturday afternoon where the Terriers will travel to Bryant University and the Blackbirds will travel to Sacred Heart University respectively.