St. Francis-Brooklyn is the people’s champion
Remsen Street Hoops Program Secures NEC’s No. 1 Seed, NIT Berth
Remsen Street’s Pope Center will be the official home office for the upcoming Northeast Conference Tournament as the St. Francis Brooklyn Terriers captured their first regular-season league championship in over a decade with Saturday’s 66-54 victory over St. Francis University (Pa.).
Along with the distinction of earning the NEC Tournament’s top overall seed, and home-court advantage throughout the three-round, eight-team, single-elimination competition, the Terriers (20-9, 14-2 NEC) are definitely headed to a postseason tournament for the first time since 1963.
By winning the NEC regular-season title outright, St. Francis will play in the NIT Tournament for the first time in over a half-century, but only if it fails in its bid for the program’s primary goal – a first-ever trip to the NCAA Tournament.
With the NEC wrapped up, the Terriers will have to play out the string in their final two regular-season games, including what figures to be a heated showdown with neighborhood rival LIU-Brooklyn Thursday night in the second Battle for Brooklyn game of the campaign.
SFC trounced the Blackbirds, 81-64, at the Pope Center on Jan. 31, marking the second victory of their ongoing eight-game winning streak.
Fifth-year Terriers head coach Glenn Braica, a Brooklyn native who has made it his goal to elevate this program to the next level, admitted in a recent USA Today feature that his Terriers might not be college basketball royalty just yet.
But their story, which figures to swell in local, as well as national, interest when the NEC Tournament kicks off on Remsen Street on March 4, has certainly captivated the modest Downtown campus and community.
“We’re not a blueblood in college basketball,” Braica said in the story. “I like to think of us more as the Brooklyn Dodgers than the New York Yankees. We’re a working-class place and people root for us. They can relate to us.”
Jalen Cannon, the reigning NEC Player of the Week for the fifth time this season and the frontrunner for NEC Player of the Year honors, fittingly was the key player in SFC’s title-clinching victory Saturday.
The senior power forward, already the leading rebounder in the history of the league, scored 23 points and pulled down 15 boards as the Terriers cruised past the Red Flash en route to their first NEC crown since the 2003-04 season.
This will mark just the second time the Terriers will enter the conference tournament as the No. 1 seed, and first since 2001, when they reached the conference title game, only to blow a 20-point, second-half lead to Monmouth.
Braica was an assistant under then-head coach Ron Ganulin at the time. Ganulin, now one of Braica’s assistants, also had an opportunity to get the Terriers to the NCAAs two years later, but suffered a title-game loss to Wagner.
These two men, tried and true Brooklynites, now have another shot to help put this Franciscan college in the national spotlight.
But as Braica noted just last week, getting caught up in the hype of the Terriers’ current success can easily derail them from their ultimate goal.
“We’re not paying any attention to it, to be honest,” he said. “And it’s not for lack of gratitude. It’s because I know the trap you can fall into if you start thinking about stuff like that. We have to crank it up and be focused every day and be ready to play or we’re going to get beat.”
After visiting LIU on Thursday, the Terriers, who last played in the NIT back in 1963, will visit Bryant on Saturday in their regular-season finale.
Then, the wait begins to find out exactly which opponent will be at the Pope Center to challenge the top-seeded Terriers on March 4.
Let the Madness begin, and let’s hope it doesn’t end too soon.
Though they’ve already secured a berth in the NEC Tournament after missing out on the festivities last March, the LIU-Brooklyn men’s team has slumped a bit of late.
The Blackbirds (12-15, 8-8) have dropped two straight since reeling off six wins in seven games, including Saturday’s 60-47 home loss to Wagner on Saturday afternoon.
Sophomore Glenn Feidanga led a poor offensive effort for LIU with only eight points as the Blackbirds shot a season-low 22.2 percent from the field.
Thursday’s game against SFC will give coach Jack Perri’s young team a shot to improve its seeding in the NEC Tournament and infuse the Blackbirds with confidence as they prepare to challenge for their fourth conference title in five years.
A local team that is already closing in on its goal of a conference crown is the Lady Bulldogs of Brooklyn College.
Vanessa D’Ambrosi scored 20 points and Megan Campbell added 16 and eight rebounds Tuesday night as BC beat the College of Staten Island, 69-57, in the CUNYAC semifinals for a berth in Friday night’s title game against defending seven-time champion Baruch College.
BC improved to 20-6 overall while advancing to the championship final for the third time in four years.
Friday’s CUNYAC Championship Game, which is to be played at CCNY’s Nat Holman Gymnasium in Manhattan, will also be broadcast live online via ESPN3.
Friday’s winner will receive an automatic bid into the NCAA Division III Women’s Basketball Championships.
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