Thursday, March 3, 2016

St. Francis Brooklyn falls in NEC quarterfinal

By Jason Guerette (@JPGuerette)

For St. Francis Brooklyn, the 2015-16 season was an interesting one to say the least. After falling just shy of leaving William & Mary, The Citadel, Army and Northwestern at the table of "Original D-I teams to have never made the NCAA Tournament" last season, they lost Northeast Conference Player of the Year Jalen Cannon, and a terrific senior point guard in Brent Jones.

The season started off with a big loss as well, as promising sophomore point guard Glenn Sanabria was sidelined with an injury. It took the Terriers a while to get going, but thanks to big step-up contributions from Yunus Hopkinson, Antonio Jenifer and Chris Hooper in particular, St. Francis rode an always-strong defense and team play on offense to wins in five of their last six games to secure a quarterfinal in the NEC Tournament.

Unfortunately, a second-half swoon cost St. Francis yet again against Mount St. Mary's, resulting in a 60-51 season-ending loss.

The game could not have started off worse for the Terriers, who fell behind 10-2 and scored just four points in the first seven minutes of the game on their home floor. They just looked a little flat out there while the Mountaineers seemed determined to put the loss to the Terriers on Saturday behind them. St. Francis compounded their woes by turning the ball over three times early.

But St. Francis then went into "lockdown mode," and the Mountaineers would be outscored 32-14 the rest of the first half, ending up shooting just 10 for 37 (27%) for the period. Hopkinson caught fire, scoring 13 points in the first 20 minutes. St. Francis also ceased turning the ball over, and ended up shooting 52% in the half. They opened the second half with a couple put-backs to stretch the lead to 38-24 with 16 minutes remaining.

And then things started to unravel.

The Mount's "Mayhem" defense started to wear on the Terriers after 64 minutes straight of having to deal with it (including Saturday's game). Their offense went south, as they made just 28% of their field goals in the second half. Mount St. Mary's started to nail their shots offensively. Although it wasn't all at once, it combined to slowly squeeze the life out of the Terriers. They coughed up that lead, with BK Ashe (18 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists) leading the way off the Mountaineers' bench.

The visitors were able to really do their damage inside, as they ended up with a 34-22 edge in points in the paint thanks in large part to 13 offensive rebounds leading to 17 second-chance points. St. Francis didn't help their cause by going just 1-6 from the foul line in the second stanza. 

Hopkinson led St. Francis with 18 points, but also had six turnovers, most in the second half. Tyreek Jewell added 12 points as well. Two-time NEC defensive player of the year Amdy Fall had six points, nine rebounds and a pair of blocks while Chris Hooper played well with six points, seven rebounds, five assists and four blocks off the bench. But it was not enough as Jenifer (who had averaged a double-double over his previous six games) was a non-factor due to foul trouble.

Ashe led the way for Mount St. Mary's, while freshman Elijah Long had 11 and Taylor Danaher contributed nine with five rebounds (all on the offensive glass). The Mountaineers move on to take on Fairleigh Dickinson on Saturday while St. Francis sees their season come to an end.

And after not being able to hold on to a 14-point second-half lead, it was a bitter defeat for the Terriers indeed.

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