Flash play it close in 2nd half despite defeat

By Mark Hostutler

For the Mirror

CATONSVILLE, Md. — Credit the youthful Saint Francis men’s basketball team for refusing to fold Saturday afternoon in the Retriever Activities Center, even when its deficit to host University of Maryland-Baltimore County reached double digits midway through the second half.

Having remained at arm’s length of the Retrievers for the majority of the game, all the Red Flash needed to survive the second round of the CollegeInsider.com Tournament and advance to the quarterfinals was one significant run.

It never came, due primarily to an inability to get stops on the defensive end, and the Retrievers eventually pulled away for an 87-79 victory, ending SFU’s season at .500.

“When you look at their (UMBC’s) second-chance points, their offensive rebounds, you can’t give a team on their home court, especially one that’s so good offensively, second and third chances,” Red Flash coach Rob Krimmel said. “We couldn’t limit them to one shot.”

The game was the first meeting between the two programs since 2003, when UMBC left the Northeast Conference for the America East.

With less than 10 minutes remaining in the second half, a steal and breakaway dunk by Keith Braxton, followed by a 3-pointer from Isaiah Blackmon pulled the Red Flash to within four at 62-58.

“In the locker room, the coaches got on us about toughness,” Blackmon said. “It’s all about coming together as a team, and continuing to fight.”

“The word that will forever be linked to our senior class — Georgios (Angelou) and Pat (Wrencher) — is perseverance,” Krimmel said. “Those guys have persevered for four years, and that’s what happened in the second half. I knew our guys would battle back and put us in a position to win the game.”

Inside the six-minute mark, layups by Jamaal King and Braxton drew SFU to within a basket at 68-66.

But the Red Flash (17-17) couldn’t get any closer.

“We did what we do best: get buckets in transition,” Blackmon said. “But we just couldn’t get enough stops on the other end.”

Blackmon scored a team-high 16 points — on 6-for-10 shooting, including 4-for-6 from long range – grabbed six rebounds. King (five assists) and Josh Nebo (seven boards) each contributed 14 points, while Braxton added 11 points, five rebounds, four assists, and three steals.

In an eight-point hole at the break, SFU forced 12 turnovers in the second half. However, getting outworked on the glass — the Retrievers held a 42-27 advantage in rebounding – prevented the Red Flash from scaling the mountain.

Will Darley struck for 30 points, including five treys, for UMBC (20-12), and three other Retrievers — K.J. Maura, Jairus Lyles, and Rodney Elliott — reached double figures in the scoring column.

“They’re a talented team,” Krimmel said of UMBC. “(First-year coach) Ryan (Odom) has some nice pieces to work with.”

Next season won’t arrive soon enough for SFU, which started three sophomores and two freshmen and lose just two players from a nine-man rotation.

“Hope is a powerful emotion,” Krimmel said. “These guys love each other and hold one another accountable. When you have guys in your program that value being challenged, who want to be coached and want to get better, you’re going to have a lot to look forward to.”

Wrencher — a forward from West Chester, Ohio –scored eight points in 11 minutes in his final game, while Angelou, from Halkida, Greece, had three points and four assists to end his collegiate career.

“Our catchphrase is ‘Believe,'” said Blackmon. “You have to believe first, before you can win.”

The Red Flash should do a lot of both next year.

ST. FRANCIS (17-17): Nebo 6-10 1-2 14, Gaskins 2-4 0-0 4, Blackmon 6-10 0-3 16, Braxton 5-7 0-0 11, King 5-12 3-4 14, Wrencher 4-7 0-0 8, Wolford 1-3 0-0 3, Meredith 2-3 0-0 6, Angelou 1-6 0-0 3. Totals 32-62 4-9 79.

UMBC (20-12): Gerrity 1-2 0-1 2, Lyles 5-13 0-0 12, Maura 4-6 4-4 14, Sherburne 3-7 0-0 7, Darley 9-16 7-8 30, Schwietz 3-4 1-1 7, Elliott 4-7 0-0 11, Grant 1-5 1-1 3, Lamar 0-4 1-2 1. Totals 30-64 14-17 87.

Halftime–UMBC 46-38. 3-Point Goals–St. Francis 11-27 (Blackmon 4-6, Meredith 2-3, Wolford 1-2, Nebo 1-2, Braxton 1-3, King 1-4, Angelou 1-6, Gaskins 0-1), UMBC 13-30 (Darley 5-9, Elliott 3-5, Maura 2-3, Lyles 2-5, Sherburne 1-4, Grant 0-1, Lamar 0-3). Fouled Out–None. Rebounds–St. Francis 25 (Nebo 7), UMBC 36 (Lyles 10). Assists–St. Francis 19 (King 5), UMBC 18 (Maura 5). Total Fouls–St. Francis 18, UMBC 10. A–904