Despite yesterday’s dispiriting 71-70 overtime loss to Robert Morris in Moon Township, PA, St. Francis Brooklyn head coach Glenn Braica was surprisingly upbeat.
“I can’t tell you how proud I am of our guys effort and resiliency,” said Braica, who watched his team rally from seven points down in the extra period only to lose on a last-second tip-in by the Colonials’ Lucious “Lucky” Jones. “We did everything we could to win this game against a great team but came up just short.”
In defeat, the Terriers had much to be proud of in their performance against the Northeast Conference’s (NEC) top team.
Playing Robert Morris to a virtual standstill on their home court, where the Colonials are now 48-9 (31-7 NEC) during head coach Andrew Toole’s four-year tenure, St. Francis out-shot and out-rebounded the home squad while scoring virtually at will in the paint. A surprise star for the Terriers was junior forward Lowell Ulmer. Replacing senior Matt Milk, Ulmer delivered 18 points on 8 of 9 shooting, repeatedly scoring inside on the Colonial defense.
St. Francis junior forward Jalen Cannon was his usual reliable self, contributing 18 points, seven rebounds, a season-high five assists and a clutch three point play with 12 seconds left in overtime that capped a Terrier run of eight-straight points and gave the visitors a 70-69 lead.
Robert Morris’ Karvel Anderson—a likely NEC Player of the Year candidate—led all scorers with 31 points. But it was Anderson’s teammate Jones who saved the game for the Colonials. With three seconds left in the extra session Jones (14 points 8 rebounds) tipped in Anderson’s three-point try to give Robert Morris their final lead. A desperation half-court heave by St. Francis’ Brent Jones at the buzzer bounced harmlessly away, allowing the Colonials to celebrate their second-straight NEC regular season title and fifth in the past seven years.
As conference champs Robert Morris (18-11; 13-1 NEC) will host all their games in the upcoming NEC playoffs, giving the Colonials an excellent chance to qualify for their first NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament with Toole as coach.
St. Francis now stands at 7-7 in the NEC (16-13 overall), very much in the hunt for a NEC tournament home game for the first time since 2012. With the top four finishers in the conference staying home for the NEC’s first round, the Terriers have two games this week at the Pope Center—Thursday night against Bryant (17-11; 9-4 NEC) and Saturday afternoon against Farleigh Dickinson (6-7; 10-17 NEC)—to catch fourth-place Mount St. Mary’s (11-15; 7-6 NEC).
No matter what happens in the coming week, the Terriers; coach believes that their success yesterday demonstrates that—no matter where they play—they are a serious contender for their first-ever Northeast Conference title.
“We’ll move forward and prepare for games next week,” said Braica. “I think we can finish the season strong and go into the tournament feeling really good about ourselves.”
Photo: St. Francis’ Lowell Ulmer delivers a dominating performance against Robert Morris