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‘Wayne’s World’ on Remsen Street

Homegrown St. Francis forward lifting Terriers to new heights

December 3, 2013 By John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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It’s Wayne’s World, and everybody on Remsen Street is simply living in it.

Freshman sensation Wayne Martin continued his early season heroics Sunday afternoon at Stony Brook, tipping in the winning basket with 1.5 seconds remaining as the St. Francis Brooklyn Terriers pulled out their third straight win, a dramatic 70-68 triumph over the Seawolves in front of 1,456 fans at Pritchard Gymnasium.

Winners of 13 in a row at home, the Seawolves (5-3) appeared to have the contest in hand with just under three minutes remaining as they opened a 66-61 lead.

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But much as they have done throughout the first full month of the campaign, the Terriers (5-3) came charging back as senior sharpshooter Ben Mockford sparked a 7-0 run with a 3-pointer from the left corner, helping to put St. Francis in front, 68-66, with 44 seconds to play.

Stony Brook guard Anthony Johnson responded with a clutch jumper, knotting the contest at 68 with only 19 ticks showing on the clock.

St. Francis coach Glenn Braica called a timeout with 14 seconds left, and drew up a play that required Martin, a product of Brooklyn’s South Shore High School and two-time Northeast Conference Rookie of the Week selection, to head to the hoop in pursuit of a potential offensive rebound.

The 6-foot-6 forward did as he was instructed, and deftly tipped home fellow freshman Sheldon Hagigal’s missed jumper with just under two seconds to go.

The Seawolves’ ensuing desperation prayer for a buzzer-beating game-winner went unanswered as Carson Puriefoy’s mid-court heave rimmed out.

Martin finished with 12 points, including 10 in the second half, and junior First Team All-NEC selection Jalen Cannon matched his season high with 23 points and grabbed a game-high eight rebounds for the Terriers.

St. Francis owns the second-best record in the NEC as the league portion of the schedule approaches.

Leading all NEC freshman with 11 points, 5.9 rebounds and a 56 percent shooting clip, Martin has been a major factor in helping St. Francis post impressive victories over the likes of defending Atlantic Coast Conference champion Miami and Florida Atlantic. He almost lifted the surprising Terriers to a near upset of Syracuse two weeks ago at the Carrier Dome.

On Sunday afternoon, he made sure to follow the sage advice of one of his upperclassmen teammates.

“Ben {Mockford} told me that plays like this, ‘We’re going to drive to the basket and look for the tip-in because it’s always going to be there,” Martin recalled.  “That’s exactly what happened.”

Still chasing their first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance, the Terriers have certainly found a gem in Martin, who figures to have them seriously competing for the NEC crown and the automatic bid to March Madness that accompanies it.

“We beat one of the top mid-major programs in the country,” Braica said after Sunday’s big win. “They are first-class, are a really good team and I was curious to see how we measured up to them.  I’m really happy how we responded.  We were ahead, fell behind, and then showed a lot of heart to come up with the win.”

Stony Brook coach Steve Pikiell was equally impressed by the Terriers’ performance in a hostile environment.

“Today was a tough game against a well-coached, good opponent in St. Francis Brooklyn,” he said. “That team beat Miami and took Syracuse to the wire, so we knew coming in that we were facing talented players.”

Martin and the Terriers return to the hardwood Saturday afternoon against Army in West Point, N.Y., before returning to the Pope Center to host Monmouth on Dec. 10 in their conference opener.

***

The three-time defending NEC champion Blackbirds of LIU Brooklyn pulled off some late-game dramatics of their own Sunday afternoon at the Wellness Center.

Junior guard Gerrell Martin cruised in for a game-winning lay-in as the Blackbirds (2-4) ended a four-game slide with a 74-72 triumph over Norfolk State in front of 1,314 Downtown hoops fanatics.

Martin scored a team-high 16 points and the nation’s leading assists man, senior point guard Jason Brickman, dished out 14 helpers to go with 10 points as LIU posted its first win since a season-opening victory over Saint Peter’s at the Barclays Center on Nov. 9.

Junior college transfer Landon Atterberry added 15 points, junior E.J. Reed had 13 and third-year swingman Troy Joseph poured in 12 for the Blackbirds, who had all five starters score in double figures.

LIU, which trailed for all but two minutes of Sunday’s game, will try to complete its first two-game win streak of the campaign Thursday night at Newark’s Prudential Center against Seton Hall.

***

Sophomore Egzon Gjonbalaj collected 24 points, six rebounds, six assists, three blocked shots and three steals last Tuesday night as Brooklyn College entered its holiday break with a wild 102-100 overtime victory over Williams Patterson at the West Quad Center.

Gjonbalaj, a graduate of Brooklyn’s FDR High School, was aided by his older brother in helping BC improve to 2-2 on the season. Junior Edon Gjonbalaj added 20 points and 11 rebounds off the bench during the OT win.

Junior Valon Djombalic, also of FDR, amassed 18 points, 17 rebounds, four blocks and three steals en route to earning CUNYAC Player of the Week honors for the Bulldogs, who will be home Wednesday night to host Vaughn College.

***

On the women’s side, the Terriers were unable to stun Miami as their male brethren had earlier this season, suffering a 78-57 loss to the Hurricanes in Coral Gables, Fla., last Friday afternoon in the opening round of the 2013 Miami Thanksgiving Tournament.

However, coach John Thurston’s team rebounded Saturday with a come-from-behind 56-49 win over Hartford in the tournament’s consolation game.

Junior guard Eilidh Simpson scored 15 points, junior Sarah Benedetti added 13 and third-year forward Jaymee Veney had 11 as the Terriers improved to 5-2 by closing the contest on a 17-5 run.

St. Francis will be back on Remsen Street Wednesday night to host Columbia.

***

Things didn’t go nearly as well for the LIU-Brooklyn women as they dropped both games during the annual LIU Turkey Classic over the holiday weekend, including Saturday’s 57-44 setback to Southern Utah in the consolation game.

Senior Cleandra Roberts scored a team-high 10 points for the winless Blackbirds (0-6), who now face the daunting task of notching their first victory of the season during a seven-game road trip that begins Thursday night in Philadelphia against Penn.

Despite their poor start, the Blackbirds can look forward to the potential for greater successs next season after coach Gail Striegler revealed a promising recruiting class for 2014 this week.

Paris Jones of Corona. Calif., Stylz Sanders from Arlington, Texas, Angel Waithe out of Florida and New Jersey’s Drew Winter constitute the nation’s 59th-best entering class of players, according to Dan Olsen’s Girls Basketball Report, the LIU-Brooklyn website reported.

“We are excited for our program to be able to sign players of this caliber, who will come in and have an immediate impact on our program,” Striegler said. “We are enthusiastic about the future of the LIU Brooklyn women’s basketball program.”

***

In other LIU sports news, former high school and NCAA Division I Track and Field All-American Janine Davis was named the Downtown school’s women’s cross-country coach on Monday.

Davis, who ran for both the University of Texas and the University of Arkansas during her collegiate career, will also join head track and field coach Simon Hodnett’s staff as an assistant, according to LIU Athletics Director John Suarez.

“We are excited to have Janine join our staff and restart the women’s cross-country program,” Suarez said. “Her experience as a coach, administrator and an All-American athlete makes her a great fit for our University and department.”

As a high school senior at Queen of Peace High School in New Jersey, Davis broke the national high school record for the 600-meter run with a time of 1:29.2. Her 2005 performance bettered the prior record of 1:29.69, set in 2002 by Stacy Ann Livingston of Boys & Girls High School, and still stands as the top high school time in the event.


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