They finished 2016 on a high note.
The St. Francis College men’s basketball team took down Central Connecticut State 86–77 in overtime on Dec. 31, wrapping up the year with a second-straight victory to improve to 2–0 in Northeast Conference play.
The Terriers backcourt trio of Glenn Sanabria, Yunus Hopkinson, and Rasheem Dunn combined for 62 points in the victory.
“It’s nice to learn through wins,” Terriers coach Glenn Braica said. “We had to learn through a lot of losses early, now we’ve learned through two wins. Now we have to keep moving forward and try to get better everyday.”
The game got off to a slow start as the two squads each struggled to find an early rhythm — hampered by 14 foul calls in the first nine minutes of play — but St. Francis hit its stride midway through the half.
Sanabria led the offensive charge, notching 15 points from behind the arc to spark the Terriers to a 35–31 lead at halftime.
St. Francis (4–11, 2–0) came out rolling once the second half began, jumping out to a 10-point lead just four minutes into the period. Sanabria was once again the sparkplug, scoring six points in the Terriers’ early run.
Central Connecticut State, however, would not go down without a fight, and the Blue Devils responded with a 13–3 spurt of their own to make it a 48–46 game at the 11:14 mark.
Sanabria played offensive hero early for St. Francis — but in the second half, it was Dunn. The freshman guard scored 15 of his 19 points after halftime and kept the Terriers in the game down the stretch.
“In the first half I didn’t have a really good half,” Dunn said. “I just wanted to go out there and play defense. Then as the game started flowing, I started scoring.”
The teams battled back and forth throughout the second half, but Sanabria was whistled for a foul with 22 seconds left, and Central Connecticut’s Austin Nehls sank all three from the line to make it a one-point game. Eric Bowles tied up the game on a long three-pointer just before the buzzer as the Blue Devils (2–11, 0–2) wrapped up the comeback and forced the game into extra time.
The score remained close for the first few minutes of overtime, but, with the Terriers up by three and 1:16 left to play, Central Connecticut’s Tidell Pierre was whistled for his fifth foul after pushing Keon Williams. The small forward connected on both ensuing free throws, and Yunus Hopkinson followed up with a three-point shot, pushing the St. Francis lead to eight with just 48 seconds left.
The Terriers would have liked to wrap up the victory during regulation, but Braica credited his team for never giving up down the stretch. St. Francis struggled to find success during its non-conference schedule, but after a handful of tough games, starting off Northeast Conference play with a pair of victories is more than enough to spark a bit of confidence.
“It builds character,” Braica said. “We had a very tough schedule with a lot of young guys and they’re learning.”