Mount outmans St. Francis to advance

March 01, 1994|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,Sun Staff Writer

EMMITSBURG -- The final was 90-81, Mount St. Mary's, suggesting a fairly easy victory in the first round of the Northeast Conference basketball tournament last night at Knott Arena.

It was anything but.

St. Francis (N.Y.), playing with just seven players, took the issue down to the final two minutes before succumbing to a free-throw barrage that carried the Mountaineers into the quarterfinals tomorrow night at Monmouth.

"Nothing's easy, is it?" Mount coach Jim Phelan said. "At least we finished the way we hoped, but these kinds of teams we've got to put away earlier. We can't seem to do it."

Mount St. Mary's (14-13) gained its third victory of the season against the Terriers, who finished with 19 straight defeats and a 1-26 record.

St. Francis dictated a lot of the tempo of the game, ran up and down when advantageous, and scored freely around the basket to stay within 82-79 with 2:04 remaining.

Then Michael Watson (team-high 24 points, 11 rebounds) hit the back-breaking basket after Mount St. Mary's had two straight possessions after a re-set of the 35-second clock for a kicked ball.

That sequence eroded both the time on the clock and the closeness of the score and the Terriers then were forced to fire away indiscriminately and foul when they missed.

The Mount, who made 22 of 26 second-half free throws, then sealed the victory with six foul shots.

"This is the capsule of our whole season," said St. Francis coach Ron Ganulin. "It takes so much for us to be competitive and the focus has to be perfect.

"Then the lack of bodies catches up and we can't stay with them the last couple of minutes. But this is about as well as we could have played."

Especially junior Chris Ortiz, who hit 14 of 18 field-goal attempts and finished with 31 points and seven rebounds. And freshman Ivan Patterson, who stepped up with 17 second-half points to close with 26.

The Mountaineers -- who beat St. Francis in overtime here in the quarterfinals last season -- received their usual big offensive outputs from Watson and guards Chris McGuthrie and Riley Inge (19 points each).

But a key spurt came from Jeff Balistrere, holder of a 4.8 scoring average.

Balistrere hit two consecutive three-pointers when the Mountaineers sorely required a lift, then hit two free throws for a 68-66 lead and St. Francis was never ahead again.

"He stepped up for us," said Phelan. "We needed it. The last time we played a team which had won one game [Long Island U.] we lost it."

Phelan is almost happy to be going to second-seeded Monmouth because "we seem to play better on the road [despite a 5-8 record]."

* McGuthrie repeated on the all-Northeast Conference second team. Two other Mountaineers, Inge and freshman center Randy Edney, out for the season since Feb. 7 because of knee surgery, were named to the NEC all-newcomer team.

NEC TOURNAMENT

First round Yesterday

Mt. St. Mary's 90, St. Francis, N.Y., 81

Francis, Pa., 103, Long Island 79

Quarterfinals

Tomorrow

St. Francis, Pa., at Rider, 7:30 p.m.

St. Mary's at Monmouth, N.J., 7:30 p.m.

Marist at Robert Morris, 7:30 p.m.

F. Dickinson at Wagner, 7:30 p.m.

Semifinals

Friday

(At higher-seeded team) St. Francis, Pa.-Rider winner vs. Wagner-FDU winner, 7:30 p.m.

Mount St. Mary's-Monmouth winner vs. Marist-Robert Morris winner, 7:30 or 8 p.m.

Championship

Sunday

(At higher-seeded team) Semifinal winners, noon

ALL-NEC TEAMS

First team Izett Buchanan, Marist, Sr., F; Antwan Dasher, Fairleigh Dickinson, Jr., G; Deon George, St. Francis, Pa., Sr., F; Deon Hames, Rider, So, G; Glenn Stokes, Monmouth, Jr. C; Lamont Street, Wagner, Sr., G; Myron Walker, Robert Morris, Sr., G.

Second team John Giraldo, Monmouth, So., G; Bobby Hopson, Wagner, Sr., G; Chris McGuthrie, Mount St. Mary's, So., G; Charles Smith, Rider, Fr., F; Mark Wilcox, Rider, Sr. G.

Player of the Year Izett Buchanan, Marist

Coach of the Year Kevin Bannon, Rider

Newcomer of the Year Charles Smith, Rider

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