Eventually the bounces were going to go St. Francis Brooklyn’s way and Thursday against Wagner the Terriers got the one they needed for a 74-73 victory.
Dre Calloway drove to the basket on a broken play and his left-handed scoop layup with 2.8 seconds remaining helped the Terriers stay right in the thick of the NEC tournament race. Calloway finished with 11 points on 5-8 shooting.
“I saw an opening the last few seconds and I just attacked the basket and the basket went in,” said Calloway.
“It was a good bounce, it was a good roll.”
St. Francis (11-15, 7-8) now holds the eighth and final NEC playoff spot a half game ahead of Central Connecticut and a half game behind seventh place Sacred Heart.
One of the biggest reason the Terriers find themselves fighting for a spot in the postseason is because they’ve lost numerous close games. St. Francis was 1-3 in games decided by three points or fewer in conference play coming into Thursday’s game.
“We have to win every game the way I see it,” said St. Francis head coach Glenn Braica. “We had some tough breaks early and now we have to try and get some back. That’s the way it is.”
Thursday’s victory didn’t have to be this hard. The Terriers led by as many as 10 points in the second half. What hurt Wagner’s (15-11, 9-6) momentum were three second half technical fouls to Bashir Mason, Latif Rivers and Jonathon Williams. The penalties for Rivers and Williams were especially costly because it limited their minutes down the stretch
“Even being down 10 I was confident and our guys were confident that we would make a run,” Mason said. “It never felt like it was out of hand or out of control for us regardless of what the scoreboard said or the circumstances were. I always felt like we were going to comeback that we would make a run that would put us in a chance to win the game.”
Williams fouled out of the game with 2:20 remaining and the game tied at 73. He led the Seahawks with 16 points in 28 minutes of action. Kenny Ortiz struggled, shooting 5-17 from the field. Despite that and shooting 1-16 from three, Wagner scored more than enough to win, but St. Francis managed to get easy points in the paint.
The Terriers had 16 offensive rebounds, which led to 21 second-chance points. Travis Nichols was especially efficient on the offensive glass. Two of his put backs helped St. Francis build a 70-66 lead with four minutes remaining.
Like many close games St. Francis couldn’t hold the lead. The Seahawks took their final lead of the game on a leaner in the lane by Latif Rivers with 1:33 remaining. After Calloway’s heroics Rivers had one more chance, but couldn’t get a shot up before the buzzer.
Losing a game in which it had the lead late doesn’t happen much at Wagner. The loss snapped a streak of 31-straight games that the Seahawks had won when leading in the final five minutes.
Now 9-6 the Seahawks have a huge game against LIU Brooklyn at Spiro Center on Sunday night on ESPNU. The Blackbirds also lost on the road on Thursday, falling to Mount St. Mary’s.
“It still is a big game,” Mason said. “Both teams have to be prepared.”
Every game down the stretch is a playoff game for the Terriers now. They must keep winning in order to control their own destiny, including a big game on Saturday against the Mountaineers, who are a game ahead of St. Francis in the standings.
“We’re really treating them like playoff games right now because we’re on the bubble right now,” said Ben Mockford who led St. Francis with 18 points even though he’s playing with an injured hand.
It helps when the ball finally goes your way.