Brooklyn Heights

Lady Terriers ‘dancing’ with the stars, face UConn in first round

Cinderella SFC-Brooklyn to Visit Top Overall Seed Connecticut

March 17, 2015 By John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Surprise winners of the NEC Tournament, the St. Francis Brooklyn Terriers will now travel to Storrs, Conn., on Saturday night for a first-round NCAA Tournament showdown against top overall seed and two-time defending champion Connecticut. Photo courtesy of SFC Brooklyn athletics
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Just call them Destiny’s Darlings.

Or the team that Brooklyn almost forgot.

Left for dead just over five weeks ago with a gruesome 7-17 overall record following a 61-43 loss at eventual Northeast Conference regular-season champion Central Connecticut State on Feb. 9, the St. Francis Brooklyn women’s basketball team suddenly stirred to life.

Only nobody seemed to notice.

Not even on Remsen Street.

The Lady Terriers (15-18), obscured by the ongoing success of the men’s team, which ultimately suffered a devastating NEC Championship Game loss to Robert Morris at a sold-out Pope Center, went on an historic, and completely unexpected run to become the Downtown Brooklyn school’s first-ever NCAA Tournament participant in basketball.

Following the loss to CCSU, SFC won five of its final six regular-season games, then somehow managed to post an unprecedented three consecutive road wins in the NEC Tournament, culminating in Sunday’s 77-62 triumph at Robert Morris.

The Terriers’ reward for beating the top three teams the NEC had to offer is a showdown with arguably the greatest women’s basketball team of all-time.

SFC will take on none other than top-ranked and top overall seed Connecticut (32-1) on Saturday night at 9 p.m. in a contest that will air nationally on ESPN2.

And to think, just last month the Terriers weren’t even sure they would reach the quarterfinal round of their own conference tournament, much less play against a team vying for its third consecutive national championship in women’s basketball.

“It is a great feeling,” SFC senior Sarah Benedetti gushed after earning NEC Tournament MVP following a 29-point effort in Sunday’s title game.  

“I always loved being the underdog and this is the true underdog story,” she added. “It feels amazing. We have never been in this situation before, but our experience with our four seniors and one junior really builds our team chemistry and that helps us when we had to make big shots to win the game.”

“To have a team in the NCAA and another team make the finals, it is like us with two teams to make the championship game, your name is out there with some elite programs,” Terriers head coach John Thurston noted.

There isn’t any program as elite as UConn, which doesn’t bode well for the Terriers, who still are three wins shy of a .500 record.

But irregardless of Saturday night’s outcome, experienced players like Eilidh Simpson, Jaymee Veney, Leah Fuchko and Benedetti will now walk together forever as champions and pioneers, becoming the first group ever from the diminutive Franciscan school to cut down the nets and go dancing during March Madness.

“So many other people at St. Francis Brooklyn, who have been there for years and have not been able to see a championship, we are grateful to bring them this trophy,” Thurston said.

* * *

Of course not all was lost for the SFC men’s team after last week’s crushing defeat to RMU in Downtown Brooklyn.

Having won the outright regular-season NEC title, the Terriers will visit top-seeded Richmond Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m. for the opening round of the NIT Tournament, which SFC has not participated in since 1963.

NEC Player of the Year Jalen Cannon and senior point guard Brent Jones will get a chance to shake off disappointing performances in the NEC Final, even if it isn’t in the tournament they were hoping to reach following a brilliant campaign.

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