LORETTO - After playing three of the better Northeast Conference teams in a row tough, the St. Francis men's basketball team needed to make the necessary plays down the stretch in order to secure a victory.
The Red flash did just that on Saturday afternoon against Sacred Heart.
St. Francis took care of business at the foul line, making nine of 10 shots in the last 1:16 to win, 68-66, for their first win at DeGol Arena. The win was much needed for a team that features mostly underclassmen.
"In those three games, we came up short," Flash coach Rob Krimmel said. "A possession here, a possession there and to the credit of the guys in that locker room they stuck with it, their effort has been there, and their togetherness has been there. We had great balance offensively and we're looking to build on that. That's the challenge of the team. You have one win, now you got to build on that success and get two, three, four, five wins in a row now."
The Flash found comfort at the charity stripe late. The only miss was from Ben Millaud-Meunier, who intentionally missed his last free throw to force an 88-foot heave with 0.9 seconds left. Saint Francis came in shooting just 62.6 percent from the free throw line, but made 13-of-16 on Saturday.
"It shows our growth as a team," Ronnie Drinnon said. "We're a young team but credit to Earl Brown leading this team. It's showing that we're growing and we'll continue to grow. This is a big confidence builder going into next week. The biggest thing is our chemistry and that helps us a lot during these tough games."
Drinnon and Brown were symbolic of the improved free throw shooting display. They combined to make all four attempts late, one of them a one-and-one with 29 seconds left. Making both free throws gave the Red Flash a four-point lead three times so a Sacred Heart 3-pointer would not tie the game.
Sacred Heart's Phil Gaetano and Steve Glowiak each hit 3-pointers in the final minute, but the Flash were still able to hold on for a victory.
"If we don't hit one or two of those free throws, that's a whole different game when that kid [Glowiak] hits the three," Krimmel said. "It's so hard to put those late-game situations into practice. You just have to have reps and confidence to step up and knock those free throws down."
Sacred Heart (4-17, 1-5 NEC) had a 27-17 lead with 8:05 left in the first half before St. Francis started to mount its comeback. The 3-point shot helped the Red Flash claw back into the game. They shot 6-for-11 from behind the arc with Millaud-Meunier hitting three off the bench to give the team a spark. It also forced the Pioneers out of their 2-3 zone. The Flash finished the half on a 17-6 run to lead 34-33 at the intermission.
"Free throws hurt us. You've got to give Brown and Drinnon credit. They go 7-for-8 while we went five for our last eight from the line," Sacred Heart coach Anthony Latina said. "That's the difference in the game. If we went 8-for-8 we would have won the game."
The Flash improved to 4-15 overall and 2-4 in the NEC.
"We got stops and we were able to get out and get some shots in transition," Krimmel said. "That's something you have to do against a zone, you've got to make shots. We weren't playing against that zone. The best way to beat a zone is to beat it down the court and you can't do that when you're just taking the ball out of the net. Give these guys credit, they got stops and rebounds when we needed it."
The Red Flash held a 19-13 advantage in bench points with Millaud-Meunier scoring 14 points. Dom Major added 10 points and Brown finished just a rebound shy of a double-double with 16 points and 9 rebounds.
"I'll just do anything for a win," Brown said after playing all 40 minutes. "I'm always happy with five points and a win than 30 points and a loss."
Drinnon, a sophomore, posted a new career-high with 11 points.
"I feel it out on the court but when you have coaches and players in your ear telling you just be confident, go out there and play your game, it helps," Drinnon said.
SACRED HEART (4-17): Barnett 6-12 2-3 14, Montes 2-7 0-0 5, Abdel Latif 6-10 1-2 13, Gaetano 1-8 0-0 3, Evans 4-9 10-11 18, Kelley 2-10 3-4 8, Glowiak 1-2 0-0 3, Falzon 1-4 0-0 2. Totals 23-62 16-20 66.
ST. FRANCIS (4-15): E. Brown 6-10 4-5 16, Drinnon 4-7 3-3 11, Harmon 4-10 0-0 9, G. Brown 1-3 1-2 3, Major 4-7 0-0 10, Whyatt 0-1 0-0 0, Millaud-Meunier 3-5 5-6 14, Jackson 2-3 0-0 5, Angelou 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 24-47 13-16 68.
Halftime-St. Francis 34-33. 3-Point Goals-Sacred Heart 4-13 (Kelley 1-2, Glowiak 1-2, Montes 1-2, Gaetano 1-6, Evans 0-1), St. Francis 7-20 (Millaud-Meunier 3-5, Major 2-5, Jackson 1-1, Harmon 1-4, E. Brown 0-1, Angelou 0-1, G. Brown 0-1, Drinnon 0-1, Whyatt 0-1). Fouled Out-None. Rebounds-Sacred Heart 37 (Abdel Latif 8), St. Francis 28 (E. Brown 9). Assists-Sacred Heart 9 (Gaetano 7), St. Francis 14 (Harmon 4). Total Fouls-Sacred Heart 14, St. Francis 14. A-831.