Flash go inside for NEC victory

LORETTO — For a team that averages close to eight 3-pointers per game, one look at the box score of Thursday’s game between St. Francis Brooklyn and Saint Francis would seem that the Red Flash would need some help elsewhere.

You see, they only hit four.

But that wasn’t the case, as the Red Flash won the battle of the Saint Francis schools with an 81-71 win, tallying 50 points in the paint.

“You can’t rely on your jump shots; it was a grimy win,” said Red Flash coach Rob Krimmel. “This time of the year, that’s what it’s going to come down to. Teams are either fighting for the playoffs or they’re fighting for a playoff spot. We’ve played everyone once; there are no secrets. At some point, you have to find a way to get a little bit of an edge, and on a night where we didn’t shoot particularly well, we found another way to score.”

It was a tight contest for the first portion of the first half, but the Red Flash used an 11-0 run late in the first half to take that spread into the locker room. St. Francis Brooklyn led for a total of 17 seconds Thursday, with every precious second coming in the first half.

“I really try to pride myself on defense because that’s what we talk about every day in practice,” said Isaiah Blackmon, who had 19 points for St. Francis. “I try to focus on defense because that’ll help me out in transition or get me going a little bit.”

That mentality worked for the Red Flash, who also had 21 points in transition. To put the dirty work in perspective, SFU made 30 field goals and four 3-pointers, meaning the Red Flash only made one jump shot outside the paint that wasn’t a three.

“They defend the 3-point line really well and they were leaving me open, so I had the open shot and a lot of them fell tonight,” said Mark Flagg, who had a career high and game-high 20 points. “It’s a confidence boost; I go out there with an edge.”

When the two St. Francis teams squared off in January, Flagg had three points against the Terriers. However, the sophomore now has scored double digits in three of the last four games, riding a wave of confidence from his teammates and coaches.

“I always knew I could be a really good player and have potential, but at the beginning of the year when I would mess up I put my head down,” Flagg said. “People were telling me not to do that and it gave me confidence. Even today I had a turnover and got a stop, coach reminded me. If it was a couple months ago I’d probably be mad about it and wouldn’t have played defense.”

During Flagg’s entire answer, Krimmel nodded his head in agreement, and broke down Flagg’s success even further.

“It’s real simple; he’s playing hard,” said Krimmel. “I don’t mean to be vanilla about it; he’s a talented kid. I think early in the year he was worried about too many finesse things; scoring, a turnover here or maybe getting beat on a play on defense. He’s just playing hard. He’s playing harder than he did two months ago.”

Defensively, the Red Flash shut down St. Francis Brooklyn for most of the night. Chauncey Hawkins scored a team-high 16 points off the bench for the Terriers, and only one other player scored in double figures.

“We knew we were going to be in a dog fight with them; when you’re shooting some layups it gives you a chance to get back in transition and set up your defense and make sure your matchups are what they need to be,” Krimmel said. “I thought we did an unbelievable job of making them work for everything (offensively). We told our guards it was going to have to be a game where they keep their guy in front of them.”

With the win, the Red Flash have now won eight straight games and can clinch the regular season conference crown with a win against LIU-Brooklyn Saturday afternoon at DeGol Arena.

ST. FRANCIS BROOKLYN (16-12): Celen 2-4 0-0 4, Evans 1-2 0-0 2, Hurley 2-9 1-2 5, Sanabria 3-8 3-6 9, Jordan 5-10 0-0 11, K.Williams 2-4 0-0 5, Johnson 2-4 2-2 6, Rohlehr 2-2 0-0 4, J.Williams 0-0 0-0 0, Hawkins 6-11 2-3 16, Krtinic 3-7 2-2 9. Totals 28-61 10-15 71.

ST. FRANCIS (15-11): Laporal 4-5 0-0 8, Gaskins 2-4 4-4 9, King 3-12 0-0 6, Blackmon 5-10 7-7 19, Braxton 7-14 0-1 14, Thompson 0-0 0-0 0, Flagg 7-9 6-9 20, Wolford 1-4 0-0 3, Dixon-Conover 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 30-59 17-21 81.

Halftime–St. Francis 38-27. 3-Point Goals–St. Francis Brooklyn 5-20 (Hawkins 2-6, K.Williams 1-3, Krtinic 1-3, Jordan 1-3, Celen 0-1, Johnson 0-1, Evans 0-1, Sanabria 0-2), St. Francis 4-16 (Blackmon 2-3, Gaskins 1-3, Wolford 1-3, Braxton 0-3, King 0-4). Fouled Out–None. Rebounds–St. Francis Brooklyn 23 (K.Williams 4), St. Francis 34 (Braxton 10). Assists–St. Francis Brooklyn 10 (Hurley 3), St. Francis 13 (Braxton 9). Total Fouls–St. Francis Brooklyn 16, St. Francis 13. A–1,030