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‘Job’ well done for SFC Brooklyn

Stars May Finally Be Aligning For Tournament-Starved Terriers

January 21, 2015 By John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Junior forward Chris Hooper played the hero Sunday as St. Francis escaped with a last-second win at NEC rival St. Francis (Pa.) Photo courtesy of SFC Brooklyn Athletics
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It’s certainly way too early to start making plans for March Madness on Remsen Street. 

But the St. Francis Brooklyn men’s basketball team is beginning to make believers out of those who thought they’d never see the Terriers in the NCAA Tournament. 

Entering Wednesday night’s Northeast Conference showdown with Central Connecticut State, coach Glenn Braica’s unit had shaken off a disheartening 0-5 start to the campaign with 11 victories in its last 14 contests. 

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The Terriers (11-8, 5-1 NEC) also stand atop the league standings after being picked No. 1 in the preseason coaches’ poll, though Bryant, also 5-1 in league play, is hot on their heels, albeit with an 8-8 overall record.

While their recent winning ways and conference-leading record might be indicative of a team about to break through and make the Franciscan school’s first-ever foray into the national championship field, the Terriers are still a very safe distance from their ultimate goal. 

Even if Sunday afternoon’s last-second win at St. Francis University appeared to be a hint that the stars may finally be aligning for Downtown Brooklyn’s “other” Division I program.

Trailing by a point with just seven seconds remaining, Braica used his final timeout and set up what proved to be the game-winning play. 

Brent Jones, the reigning NEC Player of the Week, drove down the right side of the lane and heaved up a lay-up attempt that came off the rim.  

Fortunately for the Terriers, junior forward Chris Hooper was there for the put-back, but officials instantly waved off the basket, giving SFU (4-2 NEC) a narrow victory and a share of first place with Bryant. 

However, after looking at the courtside video monitor, officials reversed the decision and allowed the basket to stand, pushing the Terriers into first place and giving them a critical road win before they play eight of their next 10 at home.

Making the win even more impressive was the lack of production from NEC Player of the Year candidate Jalen Cannon, who was limited to seven points and three rebounds in 17 minutes due to foul trouble.

“I was just doing my job,” said Hooper, who complemented Jones’ team-leading 20 points with 11 points and six rebounds of his own. 

“I knew that the play was for Brent to drive to the basket and I needed to be in position to follow-up the shot,” Hooper added. “I had a good feeling that I got it off in time and luckily I timed it right.”

Hooper’s timing may be the first clear indicator that the time is right for a program other than LIU-Brooklyn, which reeled off three straight trips to the NCAAs earlier this decade, to represent our borough in the NCAAs come March. 

But those who have hoped for SFC to make that historic journey have been burned in the past, including just last year when the Terriers were competing for the conference’s top spot before an off-the-court scandal eventually left their season in ruins.

Junior guard Tyreek Jewell, a key addition to this year’s squad after starring at Jamestown Community College, had 10 points in Sunday’s win as the Terriers improved to 8-1 in their last nine games. 

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The SFC Brooklyn ladies have won two of three since a season-high eight-game slide, including Monday’s 70-55 rout of St. Francis University. 

Seniors Sarah Benedetti and Jaymee Veney each scored 18 points, while Veney pulled down 15 rebounds. 

Junior Leah Fechko dominated the boards with 18 rebounds to go with 10 points and fourth-year standout Eilidh Simpson poured in 17 points for the Terriers (5-13, 2-4 NEC), who will host Robert Morris on Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m. in Brooklyn Heights. 

* * * 

Junior guard Egzon Gjonbalaj posted his sixth double-double of the season Saturday as Brooklyn College maintained its home dominance with an 82-78 win over Keystone College at the West Quad Center. 

Jai Kellman scored 17 points and Lorenzo Williams added 15 for the Bulldogs, who improved to 14-3 overall under first-year coach and returning BC basketball legend Rich Micallef, including a perfect 7-0 at home. 

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The Lady Bulldogs improved to 10-5 overall with a 76-44 rout of Farmingdale State College last Friday night as freshman Chrissy Heyer, formerly of Bishop Ford High School, put up a career-best 22 points off the bench. 

Heyer hit 6-of-9 3-pointers and misfired just three times in 10 shot attempts overall.

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