The first goal of a potentially historic season is now complete: the St. Francis College men’s basketball team is Northeast Conference regular season champions for the first time since 2003-04 — and it secured the spot on Senior Day, to boot.
Senior stars Jalen Cannon and Brent Jones, along with their St. Francis Brooklyn teammates wrote a script to remember with a 66–54 win over visiting Saint Francis (Pa.) last Saturday night. The victory ensures the Terriers the top seed in the conference tournament, and home-court advantage throughout. It is St. Francis’s eighth-straight win, and its 20th in its last 24 games.
Cannon scored 23 points putting him just 21 points shy of the St. Francis career scoring mark of 1,662 set in 2011 by Ricky Cadell. He also grabbed 15 rebounds, while Jones netted 15 second-half points.
“It was a great Senior Day,” said St. Francis Brooklyn coach Glenn Braica. “To be able to clinch the league on this day was tremendous.”
The Terriers (20–9, 14–2) wore down the Red Flash (14–13, 8–8) with defensive pressure and helpings of Cannon early and Jones late. The power forward scored 15 first-half points to help the Terriers to a slim 28–27 lead at intermission. Cannon, who will graduate from St. Francis holding every significant school scoring and rebounding record, acknowledged his and Jones’s shared responsibility to their teammates.
“It’s getting towards the end of the year and we don’t have too many games left,” Cannon said. “Brent and I have got to do as much as we can to be great leaders.”
The second half belonged to Jones, one of four seniors — along with Cannon, Kevin Douglas, and Lowell Ulmer — honored in a pre-game ceremony. The Brooklyn-born point guard connected on back-to-back three-pointers to launch a Terriers run that turned a three-point deficit into a 51–46 lead with 8:00 remaining. Jones fearlessly attacked the Red Flash defense, drawing five fouls and making eight crucial points in the closing minutes.
The win ensures St. Francis Brooklyn a trip to the National Invitational Tournament. Braica acknowledged his team’s success, but identified a bigger prize.
“We’ve accomplished some of our goals, but we haven’t accomplished all of them yet,” Braica said. “We got to the postseason. We’ve won 20 games. We’re the regular-season Northeast Conference champs. We’ve got one more thing to do.”
That, said Bracia, is winning the conference tournament and reaching the NCAA tournament for the first time in the program’s 76-year history.
There are still two regular-season games remaining — including a matchup against rival Long Island University — but the date that looms largest for the Terriers is March 4, when St. Francis will host the conference’s eighth-place team in the opening round of the conference tournament.
“We want to get to the top,” Jones said. “We want to have two banners.”