Hermannsson, Frink drive LIU Blackbirds
Duo Combines for 46 Points in Key Victory over Sacred Heart
Coming off a deflating home loss to Downtown rival St. Francis Brooklyn on Saturday afternoon, the LIU-Brooklyn Blackbirds were in dire need of a victory Wednesday night at the Steinberg Wellness Center.
Sophomore guard Martin Hermannsson and junior forward Jerome Frink made sure they got one, driving the postseason-hungry Blackbirds to a 92-84 triumph over Sacred Heart, and forging a deadlock with the visiting Pioneers for the eighth and final spot in the Northeast Conference Tournament race.
Hermannsson put together a one of college basketball’s best all-around performances this season, scoring 22 points, grabbing eight rebounds, dishing out seven assists and picking up five steals.
Frink scored 17 of his 24 points in the first half and also pulled down 14 boards while blocking four shots for LIU, which evened its overall record at 10-10 and improved to 4-5 in conference play.
The Blackbirds ended a two-game slide, which had left them on the outside looking in at a potential tournament berth.
It also followed an ugly 64-49 defeat at the hands of the Terriers (8-14, 4-4 NEC) in the annual Battle of Brooklyn at the WRAC, which LIU hopes to avenge come Feb. 15 at Remsen Street’s Pope Center.
But for now, SFC Brooklyn owns local bragging rights after senior Chris Hooper came off the bench Saturday to grab the coveted Lai Lynch MVP Award, putting up a team-best 15 points as the Terriers overcame a double-digit second-half deficit for their fourth straight win in the hotly contested series.
“I’m very proud of the guys for being very resilient and for hanging in there,” said SFC Brooklyn head coach Glenn Braica as his team prepared to visit Wagner College in Staten Island on Thursday evening.
“It was an ugly game and it seemed like nothing was going right for a while,” Braica added. “I thought our seniors really stepped up. Chris [Hooper], Amdy [Fall], Antonio [Jenifer] and Tyreek [Jewell] all made big plays in the second-half.”
LIU will try to even its conference record and climb above .500 Saturday afternoon here against Fairleigh Dickinson.
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On the women’s side, LIU-Brooklyn continued its recent struggles with a 75-58 defeat to Fairleigh Dickinson in Teaneck, N.J., on Wednesday night, falling to 3-5 in league action and dropping into seventh place in the NEC standings.
Junior Brianna Farris scored 16 points and senior Shanice Vaughn added 13 for the Blackbirds, who have dropped two straight and five of their last six in league play.
FDU will now visit LIU to complete a rare home-and-home series, with opening tip-off slated for high noon on Saturday at the WRAC.
The reigning NEC Tournament champion Terriers are looking more and more like a long shot to even get a chance to defend their historic title.
After becoming the first SFC hoops squad to ever qualify for the NCAA Tournament last March, coach John Thurston’s team is dead last in the conference with a 1-7 mark, including Tuesday night’s 70-53 setback at Wagner.
However, SFC did score a huge victory Saturday at LIU, knocking off the Blackbirds 71-51 behind a game-high 21 points and eight rebounds from senior standout Leah Fechko, one of Thurston’s key returnees from the squad that faced top-ranked UConn in the opening round of last year’s NCAAs.
The Terriers have amassed seven consecutive wins over the Blackbirds.
The Downtown rivals will square off again at the Pope Center on Feb. 13.
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On the local Division III circuit, the Bulldogs of Brooklyn College pulled out their fifth consecutive victory via a wild 100-99 overtime win over Lehman Wednesday night at the West Quad Center to grab sole possession of first place in the CUNY Athletic Conference.
Senior forward Lorenzo Williams, a product of Brooklyn’s South Shore High School, scored 35 points and fellow fourth-year standout, Egzon Gjonbalaj of FDR High, added 30 points for BC, which improved to 16-3 overall and 9-2 in league action.
The Lady Bulldogs fell to 13-6 and 8-2 in league play with a 74-59 defeat to Lehman earlier Wednesday.
Junior Taylor Gallagher led BC with 12 points and junior Olivia Colbert added 10 points and 12 rebounds.
The BC men will return to action Saturday afternoon at the College of Staten Island, while the ladies will look to rebound against COSI as well immediately following the men’s game.
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