Down Under trio lifts St. Francis women’s basketball over Loyola
Australian standouts Carry SFC Brooklyn to impressive victory
St. Francis Brooklyn women’s head basketball coach John Thurston liked what he saw Wednesday morning, hours before his Terriers were slated to host Loyola University (Maryland) at the Pope Physical Education Center.
“I like to say that the first two people in the gym are going to have the best game,” Thurston revealed, shortly after sophomore backcourt mates Jade Johnson and Amy O’Neill had carried the Terriers to a 64-47 victory over Greyhounds in front of 218 fans on Remsen Street.
“When I got here this morning, [Jade and Amy] were the first two here.”
They were also the best two players on the court throughout SFC’s second victory in the last three games.
Johnson scored a game-high 22 points on 8-of-13 shooting, draining all but two of her eight 3-point attempts, and O’Neill played what Thurston called her “best all-around game of the season, netting season highs of 12 points and nine assists to go with six rebounds and three steals.
“I just tried to do what I could for the team,” said Johnson, who hails from Australia, along with O’Neill and senior forward Alex Delaney. “We’ve got great shooters and great scorers. We’re definitely working on our rotation, we’re doing it as a collective and we’re all committed to defense now.”
“We’ve got some good penetrators like Amy, we’re a good drive and kick team,” added Johnson, who benefitted most from O’Neill’s ability to draw defenders into the paint before finding open teammates along the wings.
Not to be left out, Delaney, the third and most-experienced member of the Aussie triumvirate, scored 13 points and pulled down eight rebounds as the Terriers (3-5) improved to 2-0 at home this season as they prepared for Saturday’s visit to Washington, D.C. to take on Howard University.
“We don’t play at home that often. It’s tough to have a good record when you are playing so many road games,” noted Thurston, still the only SFC basketball coach to guide his team to the NCAA Tournament, a feat accomplished back in 2013-14.
“It’s important that when you do play at home, you put forth your best effort.”
The Terriers certainly did that, surrendering their lowest point total of the season while limiting Loyola (2-6) to a 34.5 shooting percentage from the field.
Thurston credited junior guard Maria Palarino’s ability to put the clamps down on Loyola’s top scorer Stephanie Karcz, who entered the contest averaging nearly 16 points per game, but was limited to just nine points in 28 minutes.
“The real story in the game was what Maria did against Stephanie Karcz of Loyola,” Thurston said. “She completely frustrated her. Maria sacrificed her scoring. It was one of the best defensive jobs I’ve had from any player since I’ve been here.”
SFC, which managed just eight victories a season ago, should be in solid shape to contend for a Northeast Conference postseason spot if it continues to play with the collective energy it displayed Wednesday.
“We had great energy throughout the whole game and we rebounded well throughout the whole game,” said Thurston. “We got all the hustle plays and all the loose balls, all the 50-50 balls.”
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Another local team that has made great strides of late is the LIU Brooklyn men’s basketball squad.
First-year coach Derek Kellogg’s unit posted its second straight victory Monday night, outlasting visiting Stony Brook, 75-71, in front of 953 fans at the Steinberg Wellness Center in the heart of Downtown Brooklyn.
Redshirt senior Joel Hernandez scored 23 points, junior Raiquan Clark added 20 and sophomore Julius Van Sauers added 16 for the Blackbirds (4-6), who improved to 3-0 at home this season.
LIU was clinging to a one-point lead in the closing stages of regulation before junior Jashaun Agosto settled matters with a clutch 3-pointer from the right wing.
The Blackbirds will try to keep their momentum going when they take on Fairfield on Sunday afternoon here at Barclays Center, the first of back-to-back games they will play at the Brooklyn Nets’ home arena.
LIU will also host Saint Peter’s University on the corners of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues on Dec. 17.
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The Brooklyn College women’s team continued its red-hot start to the season with Tuesday night’s 55-46 win over visiting New York University before 127 Bulldogs faithful at the West Quad Center.
Freshman guard Taylor George led all players with 22 points and senior backcourt mate Karen Mak added 12 points and four assists for the Lady Bulldogs, who improved to 6-1 on the season by rebounding from last Friday’s 87-83 loss at Hunter College.
BC will visit Lehman College in the Bronx on Friday.