The Terriers’ dream season continues.
Top-seeded St. Francis Brooklyn knocked off upset-minded visitors No. 5 St. Francis University 62–48 in the Northeast Conference semifinals on March 7 to secure a spot in Tuesday’s championship game.
The program’s first-ever bid to the NCAA Tournament will be on the line. The Terriers held the Red Flash to 21 points in the second half in a season-best performance according to Terriers coach Glenn Braica.
“I thought our defense in the second half was about as good as it’s been all year,” Braica said.
Conference Player of the Year Jalen Cannon scored a game-high 20 points and added 11 rebounds while Terrier teammates Brent Jones and Chris Hooper also scored in double figures. Cannon scored six-straight points in the second half to extend the Terriers’ lead from seven to 13. Red Flash guard Malik Harmon, a former Christ the King star, led St. Francis University with 18 points.
St. Francis Brooklyn only led by three at halftime, but then the Terriers defense clamped down, holding St. Francis University to six points in the first 9:30 of the second half.
“We got more aggressive,” Braica said. “We started trapping the ball screens and got these guys excited. We’ve improved at that. We played Mount St. Mary’s here about a month ago and our ball screen defense was awful.”
The Terriers are one win away from the NCAA tournament, something the program has never reached since its inception in 1948. The team made the conference title game twice before in 2001 and 2003, but lost both times — even blowing a 20-point second-half lead in the 2001 game. St. Francis Brooklyn is only one of five schools not to have made an NCAA tournament appearance, but the players aren’t intimidated.
“I don’t feel any pressure,” Cannon said. “It’s just another number. You just have to go out and play every day.”
St. Francis Brooklyn certainly impressed Red Flash coach Rob Krimmel.
“The biggest thing is their ability to defend, and their depth,” Krimmel said. “This late in the year they’ve got some guys that come off the bench and can give them good minutes and not necessarily score, but just to give them some good minutes.”
Robert Morris University is the only thing now between St. Francis Brooklyn and the NCAA tournament. The teams split their two regular season meetings, with each winning on the other’s home floor. Robert Morris is making its sixth title-game appearance in seven years, while St. Francis Brooklyn is back for the first time in a dozen seasons.
“I know my guys are going to come to play,” Braica said. “How well we play, we’ll see. But they’re going to be ready.”