Hagigal arrest latest in series of ugly off-the-court incidents
By John Torenli, Sports Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Two arrests, two critical losses and too much negative attention for what was once the feel-good story of the year in Downtown Brooklyn.
The St. Francis men's basketball team, seemingly on the verge of an historic breakthrough season, has turned into the Nightmare on Remsen Street over the past week, with freshman guard Sheldon Hagigal's arrest on sex-abuse charges serving as the latest black eye for coach Glenn Braica's troubled team.
Hagigal, who was named the Northeast Conference's Rookie of the Week on Feb. 10, was suspended by the team after becoming the fifth Terrier in the past week to be sidelined indefinitely.
Sophomore Anthony White was previously charged and arrested for allegedly assaulting a female victim, reportedly his own girlfriend, at the Downtown Brooklyn school, earning a suspension alongside teammates Wayne Martin, Brent Jones and P.J. Santavenere.
Martin, a South Shore High School product, and Jones, of Brooklyn's Bedford Academy, have both been questioned in the ongoing investigation, but neither has been arrested.
The two Brooklynites were reinstated by the team and participated in Sunday's 69-68 loss to neighborhood rival and defending three-time NEC champion LIU-Brooklyn at the Barclays Center as the once-flourishing Terriers fell to 0-2 since the start of the embarrassing scandal that threatens to derail their dream season.
Santavenere was also reinstated but did not play Sunday.
Braica, who has slowly built St. Francis back into a serious NEC contender in pursuit of the Franciscan college's first-ever NCAA Tournament berth, watched his short-handed team battle down to the final buzzer against the Blackbirds.
But senior Ben Mockford's 3-pointer as time expired left them one point short before a split crowd of 2,767 at the Brooklyn Nets’ arena.
"I was proud of the way our guys competed. I thought we did some things really well," Bracia said after his team fell to 15-11 overall and 6-5 in the NEC, good for a tie for fourth place with Mount Saint Mary's in the conference standings.
"We were able to stop [LIU senior guard Jason] Brickman from scoring, but he hurts you in other ways, he's a phenomenal passer."
The Terriers didn't have long to lick their wounds following the tough loss as they prepared to host Central Connecticut State here on Tuesday night in a game that was rescheduled following last week’s postponement due to the latest winter storm.
Mockford finished with a team-high 17 points Sunday as he and junior forward Jalen Cannon (15 points) continue to play through the ongoing distractions surrounding the program.
To their credit, neither Braica nor his players have used the potentially debilitating scandal as a crutch during this turbulent stretch.
"It's always a great game when we play LIU," Mockford said following Sunday's loss. "Every game is normally very close, and there's an extra bit of energy in the arena. Tonight they just got the better of us, we'll move on and get ready for a big week ahead."
That week includes a visit to sixth-place St. Francis (Pa.) on Thursday night in a contest that could sink the Terriers deeper down in the NEC seedings. Saturday features a trip to Moon Township, Pa., for a showdown with conference-leading Robert Morris, the team the Terriers lost to at the Pope Center last week in their first game following the initial player suspensions.
The Blackbirds (8-16 overall, 3-8 NEC) remain one game behind CCSU and Fairleigh Dickinson for the final NEC playoff berths with five regular-season games remaining, including Thursday's visit first-place RMU.
Brickman, who matched his season high with 14 assists Sunday, was officially named a finalist for the Bob Cousy Award as the NCAA's top point guard.
He also received the Lai-Lynch Award as the game's MVP while moving into sixth place on the NCAA's all-time assists list with 961. He needs only five more helpers to surpass current NBAer Steve Blake for a spot in the Top 5.
Despite Brickman's heroics, second-year LIU coach Jack Perri credited his team's relentless defense for Sunday's win as the defending champs improved to 7-1 in their last eight "Battle of Brooklyn" contests.
“We went back to man-to-man [defense]," Perri noted. "We’ve been working on that. I think guys bought into that well. We’ve been getting killed by the 3-point line the last few games so we made a conscious effort to do better with that.”
Freshman Glenn Feidanga, making his first career start against the Terriers, scored nine points and grabbed seven rebounds en route to capturing NEC Rookie of the Week honors for the Blackbirds, who snapped a season high-tying four-game losing streak.
A local men's basketball story that flew well under the radar this month is the newly crowned Hudson Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Tournament champions from St. Joseph's (Brooklyn).
The Bears (18-9, 7-0 HVIAC) nailed down the conference crown as the No. 1 seed with Sunday's 92-76 triumph over No. 3 Vaughn College in New Rochelle, NY.
Brooklyn natives David Louison and Michael Megafu led the charge for St. Joe's with 28 and 22 points, respectively, as the Bears captured their first HVIAC title since 2010 and third overall.
On the women's side, the St. Francis women's team dropped to 7-7 in NEC play with Monday night's 77-53 loss to Sacred Heart in Fairfield, Conn.
Junior Eilidh Simpson scored 14 points for the Terriers (16-9), who will try to get back on track Saturday afternoon on Remsen Street against visiting St. Francis (Pa.).
Despite their recent slump, the Terriers remain tied with Wagner for the sixth spot in the race toward next month's NEC Tournament.
The Blackbirds (5-9 NEC) are holding on to the eighth spot in NEC despite Monday's 79-43 loss at conference-leading Robert Morris in Moon Township, Pa.
Sophomore Sophie Basin scored a team-high eight points for the Blackbirds, who will host Wagner on Saturday afternoon.
Read Thursday’s Eagle or log on to www.brooklyneagle.com Wednesday for a full recap of St. Francis’ makeup game with CCSU.