Pioneers Beaten In Final Seconds at St. Francis (NY), 58-56

BROOKLYN HEIGHTS, NY (February 18, 2012) – St. Francis (NY)'s Travis Nichols put back a Brent Jones miss with 1.6 seconds left to deal the Sacred Heart Pioneers a 58-56 Northeast Conference loss in Brooklyn Heights Saturday night.  Junior Shane Gibson (Killingly, CT) recorded his second-career double double with 21 points and 10 rebounds to lead four Pioneers in double figures.

Down 54-52 with a minute and a half left, SHU sophomore Chris Evans (Stamford, CT) went to the line twice bfor a pair of free throws to potentially take the lead.  Evans would make just two of four, leaving the game tied at 54-54 with 1:04 left.  St. Francis' Akeem Johnson made both ends of a one-and-one before SHU's Louis Montes (Brockton, MA) hit a lay-up off a Gibson feed with 28 ticks left to produce the ninth tie of the night at 56-56. 

The Terriers (15-12, 12-4 NEC) used a time-out with 18 seconds left to set up the final play and point guard Brent Johnson got into the paint with the clock running out.  Johnson's shot missed the mark but Travis Nicholas corralled the rebound and hit the put-back with 1.6 seconds left to deliver the win.  A last-second heave from Gibson fell short as the Pioneers drop their second-straight in Brooklyn in the last three days.

The Pioneers (13-16, 7-9 NEC) opened the game up 5-0 thanks to a Gibson fade away and a three from Montes.   The Terriers caught an early break when SHU starting center Justin Swidowski (Cinnaminson, NJ) picked up two fouls in first three minutes and had to go to the bench.  St. Francis (NY) caught fire behind Stefan Perunicic who hit a long three from top of the key to spark a 14-0 run.

Perunicic ran a perfect pick and roll with Johnson who finished with a dunk to put his team up 9-7.  A second three from Perunicic was followed by a Jalen Cannon follow-up dunk to force a SHU time-out at 13:37 down 14-7.  Brent Jones was left all alone underneath to complete the run and make it 16-7.   Gibson ended a four minute scoring drought for SHU at 12:40 with a three from left wing and pulled the Pioneers within 20-18 on another fade-away jumper.

Evans capped a 14-4 run, delivering a thunderous dunk on the break while getting fouled.  His free throw put the Pioneers up 21-10 with 8:19 left.  A tip-in by Lowell Ulmer put SFNY back up briefly but SHU extended their run with a 9-0 spurt fueled by freshman Phil Gaetano (Wallingford, CT).  Gaetano converted on the fast break off SFNY turnover and buried a three from the wing for a 26-22 lead.  Montes made it 28-22 with 4:40 left on a dribble drive lay-in.  Gaetano provided the final points of the half with a pair of free throws at 1:46.

After a 7-12 start shooting to lead 16-7 at the 13:00 minute mark, the Terriers shot just 2-of-18 the rest of the half and were outscored 23-6.  St. Francis (NY) finished the first half making just two-of-14 from behind the three-point line, missing 10-striaght.

St. Francis (NY) opened the second half with a 10-2 run and tied the game at 32-32 on a Penunicic three.  Nichols put the Terriers up 42-41 with a three from the right wing, rattling it home at 11:55, making SFNY four-of-six from three to start second half.  The Pioneers jumped back in front by five as Gaetano and Gibson hit back-to-back threes for a 46-42 lead with 9:47 left.  A Johnson lay-up followed by a Jones steal and lay-up cut lead to 49-48 with 6:35 left.  A pair of Johnson free throws made it a 6-0 spurt and a SFNY 50-49 lead with 4:52 left

The Pioneers ended a four minute scoreless drought when Montes hit a put-back off a miss and was fouled.  He added the free throw to tie it at 52-52 with 3:25 left.  Jones answered again for the Terriers, hitting a jumper from the right wing for a 54-52 lead.  Off a time-out, Evans went to the line for the first time at 1:42, making just one of two.  After a long miss on a Perunicic three, Evans drew another foul underneath at 1:04, but again made one of two tying it at 54-54 and setting up the final minute of action.

The Terriers shot 56.0% (14-25) in the second half as Johnson finished with a team-high 16 points.

Montes joined Gibson in double digits with 14 while Evans and Gaetano came off the bench for 11 and 10 points each, respectively.

The Pioneers return home to the William H. Pitt Center for the final two games of the regular season next week.  SHU will host Robert Morris on Thursday night and take on Saint Francis (PA) on Saturday live on MSG Plus.