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Terriers earned their ‘shining moment’ game against UConn

Despite Losing Record, SFC Brooklyn is Right Where it Belongs

March 18, 2015 By John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
These five seniors helped the St. Francis women’s basketball team accumulate the top GPA in the Northeast Conference for each of the past four seasons.  Photo courtesy of SFC Brooklyn Athletics
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This is the time of year when everyone becomes a college basketball expert, from auto mechanics to nail technicians.

And the numbers used by both amateur and so-called professional bracketologists to back up their March Madness predictions can be mind-numbing to say the least.

Just taking a cursory glance at a sight called “” will reveal that the St. Francis Brooklyn Terriers, seeded 16th in the Albany region of the upcoming NCAA Women’s Tournament, have a 0.014 percent chance of knocking off top overall seed Connecticut in Saturday night’s opening-round game at Gampel Pavillion.

That means UConn is a pretty safe bet to advance to the second round at 99.986 percent.

Also, coach John Thurston’s Terriers (15-18) are the only team in either the men’s or women’s tournament with a losing record.

SFC only managed to go 9-9 in the Northeast Conference, which is not exactly ranked among the nation’s elite leagues, before ripping off an unprecedented three straight road wins in last week’s tournament to earn the Remsen Street school’s first-ever NCAA bid in basketball.

For seniors like Sarah Benedetti, a Connecticut native and the NEC Tournament MVP, Katie Fox, Jaymee Veney, Eilidh Simpson and Colette Hounshell, these numbers, compared to those boasted by the mighty UConn program, might be a bit daunting.

Especially when considering the powerhouse Huskies are vying for their third consecutive national championship under legendary coach Geno Auriemma and have lost just one of 33 games this season.

But the Terriers have spent the past four seasons putting up some impressive numbers of their own.

Perhaps the most overlooked of which is the fact that SFC has led the NEC in GPA for each of those campaigns since the arrival of the above-mentioned five players, defining the term student-athlete on their own terms.

“When you look at the combined achievements of this senior class, academically and athletically, I believe you would be hard pressed to find another class like this in the history of St. Francis College Women’s Basketball.” Thurston said.

“I think the most important accomplishment is that academically we have done just as well in the classroom as we have done on the court,” Benedetti told the Middletown Press earlier this week. “I think that is something we are also very proud of.”

The Terriers’ acumen in the classroom, as well as the hardwood under Thurston’s tutelage, has certainly taught them that what happened before doesn’t necessarily have to happen again.

Take for instance the fact that SFC was 7-17 overall as recently as Feb. 9 following a 61-43 loss at eventual NEC regular-season champion Central Connecticut State.

That humbling defeat also dropped the Terriers to 4-8 in conference play, meaning they were going to have to fight and scratch their way just to earn a quarterfinal bid in the NEC Tournament.

SFC did just that, ignoring its previous history by reeling off five wins in six games before stunning top-seeded CCSU, 71-63, in a double-overtime thriller in the conference semifinals.

After toppling RMU for the title on Sunday, the Terriers found themselves waiting around Monday night to see exactly whom they would be matched up with for the program’s first-ever trip to the Big Dance.

Benedetti, who poured in a career-high 29 points in Sunday’s championship game, wasn’t the least bit disappointed to learn that the Terriers would be squaring off against the Huskies, a team she followed religiously while honing her own game in Canton, Conn.

“It’s been one of my dreams since I was a little kid to play [at Gampel Pavillion],” Benedetti revealed. “I have seen so many games there and it’s cool to be the one on the court instead of in the stands.

“We were all pretty excited about it,” she added. “We knew we were probably going to be seeded as a 16 and we had the mentality that you might as well play the best of the best.”

Thurston backed up his star player’s sentiments.

“If you’re going to play somebody in a tournament like this why not play the best team in the country,” he said.

Veney, who led the Terriers with 14.8 points and 8.0 rebounds this season, even hinted that she wasn’t just looking to show up for posterity’s sake Saturday night.

“It’s amazing that we’re going to be in the record books forever,” she said. “I think we can get an upset, personally.”

Ignoring all the numbers, be it their own or those of their opponents, is the only reason the Terriers got this far this season.

Here’s to hoping they can pull off the greatest upset in the history of amateur athletics come Saturday night, even if it is only a 0.014 chance.

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