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Post-game scuffle mars latest SFU win, Braxton’s milestone night

LORETTO — An ugly scene that thankfully stopped short of a brawl played out at the conclusion of Saturday night’s good, intense, entertaining game between two of the best teams in the Northeast Conference.

Saint Francis beat Sacred Heart, 72-65, for its 10th win in 11 games. The Red Flash are on their hottest streak since their NCAA Tournament season of 1990-91 and moved into a tie for first place in the NEC.

Keith Braxton also moved into fourth place on the school’s career scoring list, passing former NBA standout Kevin Porter.

But none of that will be what’s most remembered from Saturday’s game.

What occurred in the handshake line after the game soured things in a hurry at DeGol Arena.

“Unfortunately something like that has to happen,” Braxton said.

As the players and coaches were shaking hands, video shows Sacred Heart sophomore guard Koreem Ozier sticking his hand into the face of and pushing Saint Francis’ Isaiah Blackmon.

Then an unidentified member of the Sacred Heart team — who was not wearing a uniform — was seen throwing a punch in Blackmon’s direction.

Craziness ensued after that, as players and coaches from both teams spilled onto the court screaming at each other. Some players for both teams charged in the direction of opposing players, only to be held back by teammates and coaches, preventing the situation from escalating further.

The whole mess lasted about a minute, and there were no indications that other punches were thrown or landed.

Saint Francis coach Rob Krimmel and Sacred Heart coach Anthony Latina tried to get in the middle of the mess to calm things down. Both coaches said they had not seen exactly what started it all.

“It’s not something you want to see in a college basketball game,” Krimmel said.

“We’ve got to make sure that never happens again, and it won’t. It will not,” Latina said.

“You don’t want that in sports. You love competitiveness, but not that,” Saint Francis athletic director Susan Robinson Fruchtl said.

With 9:08 remaining and SFU up 56-50, Braxton was driving for a layup when he was fouled going up to the rim by Sacred Heart’s Alex Watson. Braxton, who fell hard at the base of the goal, took exception to the foul, sprang to his feet and charged toward Watson before getting held up by teammate Mark Flagg.

Players from both teams ran onto the court, and while there was a lot of jawing back and forth, that situation calmed down rather quickly. There were several technical fouls issued to players on both teams. Braxton said he lost his composure and took responsibility for the situation.

Sacred Heart ran off a 9-1 spurt after that ordeal to grab a 59-57 lead with 7:01 to go. The Red Flash answered with the next four points to regain the lead, then after things were tied at 61, SFU took control with a 7-0 run.

Braxton led all scorers with 24 points, while Blackmon had 18 and Tyler Stewart 11 off the bench in the second half for the Flash (12-5, 5-1). Sacred Heart (10-8, 3-2) had five players in double figures, led by E.J. Anosike and Aaron Clarke with 13 apiece.

There was no drama in the closing minutes of the game as the Flash held on to win. But then, out of nowhere, the situation unfolded in the handshake line, with fans watching the ugly scene play out and yelling their displeasure at the visiting Pioneers.

“I can’t speak for Rob, but I’m sure both of us never want that,” Latina said. “Rob’s one of the class acts, him and his program, and I like to think we are, too. It’s an unfortunate thing, but I think both programs are above that and will get past it.

“Once it gets a little crazy, you just try to break it up and cooler heads prevail. Young kids are young kids sometimes. But certainly that’s not something anybody wants.”

Krimmel said he has a ton of respect for Latina and his program and added the situation can be used a teaching moment.

“We talked to the team about how to play with composure and to win with class and to lose with class,” Krimmel said.

One big issue now will be if Saint Francis has any players suspended by the NEC. The Flash have a big game Monday night when they host Merrimack in a battle between the two teams tied for first in the league. After that, SFU travels to face LIU on Thursday, and the Sharks are tied for second at 4-1.

The Flash certainly cannot afford to lose Blackmon, the NEC’s leading scorer in conference games. It did not appear that he did anything to provoke getting pushed by Ozier in the handshake line, but there’s no telling how the league office will view the matter or when it will hand down punishments.

“It was just one mistake both teams made in the heat of the moment,” Braxton said.

SACRED HEART (65): Anosike 5-6 1-2 13, Spellman 4-8 2-2 10, Ozier 2-9 1-2 5, Parker 0-1 0-0 0, LaRose 5-10 0-0 12, Clarke 4-10 3-4 13, Watson 1-2 0-0 2, Pfaffenberger 1 0-0 0, Thomas 3-7 2-2 10. Totals: 24-54 9-12 65.

SAINT FRANCIS (72): Thompson 4-11 0-0 8, Kuzavas 3-4 0-2 6, Gaskins 2-6 1-2 5, Blackmon 5-9 5-7 18, Braxton 9-16 3-6 24, Dixon-Conover 0-0 0-0 0, Meredith 0-2 0-0 0, Stewart 5-11 1-1 11, Laskey 0-1 0-0 0, Flagg 0-1 0-3 0. Totals: 28-61 10-21 72.

Halftime: Saint Francis, 34-33. Three-point field goals: Sacred Heart 8-21 (Anosike 2-3, Ozier 0-1, Parke r0-1, LaRose 2-5, Clarke 2-5, Thomas 2-6); Saint Francis 6-18 (Thompson 0-2, Gaskins 0-1, Blackmon 3-6, Braxton 3-6, Meredith 0-2, Stewart (0-1). Rebounds: Sacred Heart 34 (Anosike, Spellman, 12 each); Saint Francis 36 (Braxton 10). Assists: Sacred Heart 12 (Ozier 4); Saint Francis 14 (Gaskins 4). Technical fouls: Sacred Heart 1 (Watson); Saint Francis 2 (Blackmon, Braxton). Officials: Jeff Fox, Tom Regan, Mike McCloskey. Attendance: 1,270

Scoring leaders

The top career scorers in Saint Francis history:

1. Joe Anderson 2,301

2. Maurice Stokes 2,282

3. Jeff Hamilton 1,810

*4. Keith Braxton 1,788

5. Kevin Porter 1,766

*– Current

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