Thrilling Overtime Victory Clinches GNAC Title for Monks

Thrilling Overtime Victory Clinches GNAC Title for Monks

STANDISH, ME - Third-seeded Saint Joseph's (21-7, 12-6 GNAC) needed overtime to get past #4 Emmanuel (17-11, 12-6) in the GNAC Championship game at the Harold Alfond Center on Saturday afternoon. The Monks held a lead for over 39 minutes in regulation, but a two-pointer from Saints forward Tyrone Buchanan ‘11 (Detroit, MI) as the final buzzer rang tied the game, sending the title bout into overtime. The extra frame was knotted at 72-apiece, but a back-door play executed by Elbie Murphy ‘09 (Loudonville, NY) with two seconds remaining clinched a 74-72 victory and a GNAC Championship for the Monks. Chris Davis ‘11 (New York, NY) scored a team-high 16 points in the NCAA Tournament berth-clinching win. Ray Eatmon '10 (Huntington, NY) and Murphy were named to the All-Tournament Team and Scot Vachon ‘09 (Schenectady, NY) received Tournament Most Valuable Player honors.

Mike Jackson ‘10 (New York, NY) scored a game-high 17 points and Buchanan added 13 in the losing effort for the feisty Saints. The overtime tournament game was the second straight for visiting Emmanuel. The Saints defeated top-seeded Lasell College in double-overtime in a semi-final game on Thursday to advance to the title match. The upset left Saint Joseph's, who defeated #7 Albertus Magnus College in a semi-final the same night, as the top remaining seed, making the unlikely scenario of a #3 seed hosting the championship a reality. The overtime contest was the first of the season for the Monks.

Head Coach Rob Sanicola's 100th career win couldn't have come at a better time, save an NCAA win, perhaps. The 2009 GNAC Men's Basketball Coach of the Year, Sanicola ‘99 has guided the Monks to a pair of 20 win seasons in his six years at the helm and currently owns a .610 (100-64) career winning percentage. The trip to the NCAA's will be the second for the Saint Joseph's men's basketball program, as the Monks made their first appearance in 2003, the team's inaugural season as an NCAA Independent. Coach Sanicola, a former standout player at St. Joe's, served as an assistant under Head Coach Rick Simonds that year.

NCAA DIII Tournament seedings will be announced on Monday at 11:00 AM on the website and the complete tourney bracket will be posted shortly thereafter.

The Royal Blue faithful certainly appeared thankful for the opportunity to cheer on their Monks at the Harold Alfond Center, as the fans showed up in drones, painted in blue and white and chanting throughout the game. A near-capacity crowd of 1,184 fans flocked to the Alfond to witness history in the making.

The Saints won the tip-off and secured a 2-0 lead immediately, as Jackson knocked down a jumper 12 seconds in. The Monks followed by blanking the visitors 9-0 in the subsequent 3:25 of play and held a 9-2 advantage after Vachon converted one of his signature drives to the bucket.

In the early going, the game looked like it was on its way to a blowout. Buchanan followed Vachon's hoop with a three-pointer to make it a 9-5 game, but Saint Joseph's got four points from Chris Davis in a 9-0 run and led 18-5 with 13:01 to go in the first half. As it played out, the 13-point cushion was the largest of the game for the Royal Blue.

The Saints seemed unfazed by the deficit, and in a workmanlike manner, began to chip away at the deficit. Andres Bustamante ‘09 (Amherst, MA) made a three and Buchanan drilled a jumper to make it a 10-point game, 20-10, with 12:03 to play. SJC guard Alberto Rue ‘10 (Jamaica Plain, MA) sank a pair of freebies to extend his team's lead, but the Monks would only score one basket, a layup by Eatmon, in the next four minutes while the Saints fought back with a 12-2 run and trailed 24-22 with 7:27 before the break. Eric Spanbauer ‘12 (Niagara Falls, NY) and Buchanan combined to net 10 points during the outburst.

St. Joe's clung to a lead of no more than six points until Rue made his second of two FT attempts to put his team up 34-27 with 2:39 left in the first stanza. The junior guard scored on a fast break a minute later and Chris Petzy ‘12 (East Kingston, NH) scored off a nifty Eatmon dish to cap the SJC scoring in the first, as the Monks carried a 38-29 advantage into intermission.

Tyler Kelley ‘11 (Saco, ME) assisted on Eatmon and Vachon baskets in the first 2:18 to help the Monks post a 42-31 lead. Emmanuel forward Isaiah Duke ‘12 (Albany, NY) converted a three-point play 20 ticks later, but a perfectly placed alley-oop pass from Vachon was finished triumphantly by a Murphy dunk at the 17:16 mark to put St. Joe's back up by 10.

For the next 13 minutes, the Monks held a lead of at least six points and were ahead 64-55 after Eatmon took a pass from Murphy and completed a backdoor play with 5:08 left in regulation.

Rob Williams-Hinton ‘09 (Oak Park, MI) led the charge in the comeback attempt for the Saints by knocking down jump shots on consecutive Emmanuel possessions, cutting the SJC lead down to 64-59 with 4:10 to play. Chris Davis connected on a jumper of his own 34 second later, but Jackson made a three-pointer to bring the Saints within four points of the lead, 66-62, with 3:12 on the clock.

On their next trip down the floor, Williams-Hinton made a pair of free throws after being fouled by Vachon to make it a 66-64 game. Eatmon and Saints guard Tony Carter-Hill ‘11 (Baltimore, MD) exchanged buckets in the next minute of play and the game appeared to be at hand for St. Joe's after Bustamante turned the ball over with a double-dribble with 52 seconds remaining.

On the Monks' final trip down the floor in regulation, Murphy and Eatmon both fired wide on field goal attempts and Buchanan gathered a defensive carom for the Saints with 20 seconds to go. After a timeout, Emmanuel made their way down the floor and Jackson misfired on a three-point bid with three seconds left. Buchanan managed to come down with the rebound near the free throw line, and lofted a shot into the basket just before time expired to launch the electrifying GNAC Championship to an extra frame.

Kelley scored the first hoop of the five-minute overtime period to provide his squad with a 70-68 edge and 3:50 to go. Spanbauer converted a layup 17 seconds later to knot the game and Carter-Hill made a pair of freebies to give the Saints their first lead, 72-70, since the team's opening drive of the game.

Unfortunately for Emmanuel, Spanbauer and Buchanan both fouled out in the opening two minutes of play in overtime. The players, 6'7 and 6'4, respectively, had provided the Saints with solid play in the paint for the majority of the game.

A lackluster effort from the free-throw line in overtime nearly derailed the Monks' chances of winning the title. St. Joe's shot just 2-6 from the stripe in OT.

Those two freebies were crucial, however, as Eatmon made one of two at the 1:58 mark and Chris Davis did the same 1:11 later to tie the game at 72-apiece with 47 seconds on the game clock. The St. Joe's defense forced Williams-Hinton, who stepped out of bounds, to turn the ball over with 16 seconds left to regain possession. On their last trip down the floor, Eatmon dealt a pass to Murphy, who was all alone under the rim. The senior finished the play with an easy bucket and, with only two seconds left, lifted the Monks to a GNAC Championship and the program's second NCAA DIII Tournament berth. After Murphy's clinching bucket, the Saints took the ball out and hurried down the floor, calling timeout when they passed midcourt. On a drawn-up inbounds play, Jackson had an open look, but his three-point bid fell short as the student section rushed the floor to celebrate with the team.

Saint Joseph's outshot Emmanuel from the field, 46.9% (30-64) to 44.8% (30-67) and held a slight 40-37 advantage on the glass in the victory. Neither team fared well from beyond the arc, as the Monks shot 2-11 (18.2%) and the Saints countered with a 4-14 (28.6%) effort. St. Joe's recorded 21 assists on 30 field goals.

For the Monks, All-Conference forward Eatmon notched 13 points, seven rebounds and four assists, Rue had nine points, all in the first stanza, and grabbed a team-best eight caroms, Kelley netted nine points and four assists and Vachon tallied eight points, seven boards and five assists. Murphy chipped in with six points and five assists, Petzy added six points and Mitch Ouellet ‘09 (Fort Kent, ME) added four points and four boards.

For the Saints, Jackson posted a team-high eight rebounds, All-Conference guard Williams-Hinton added nine points and six caroms, and Spanbauer and Chris Puzacke ‘11 (Torrington, CT) both had nine points in the losing effort.

A special thank you goes out to the Royal Blue faithful who attended the game. The fans represented Saint Joseph's in a sportsmanlike manner and provided the Monks with a decided home-court advantage by rocking the Alfond for over two hours! THANK YOU FANS!!

Newspaper Box Score
Emmanuel College vs St. Joseph's (Me.)
02/28/09 2:00 PM at Standish, Maine
At Standish, Maine
Mike Jackson 8-19 0-0 17; Tyrone Buchanan 6-9 0-0 13; Rob Williams-Hinton
3-10 2-2 9; Eric Spanbauer 4-5 1-2 9; Chris Puzacke 4-6 1-2 9; Tony
Carter-Hill 2-7 2-2 6; Andres Bustamante 2-5 0-0 5; Isaiah Duke 1-6 2-5 4;
Andre Fuller 0-0 0-0 0; J.P. Ventura 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 30-67 8-13 72.
ST. JOSEPH'S (ME.) (21-7)
Chris Davis 7-12 2-3 16; Ray Eatmon 6-11 1-5 13; Tyler Kelley 3-11 2-2 9;
Alberto Rue 2-5 4-4 9; Scot Vachon 4-5 0-1 8; Chris Petzy 3-6 0-0 6; Elbie
Murphy 3-11 0-2 6; Mitch Ouellet 2-3 0-0 4; Alonso Davis 0-0 2-2 2; Zach
O'Brien 0-0 1-2 1; Anthony Savino 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 30-64 12-21 74.
Emmanuel College.............. 29 39 4 - 72
St. Joseph's (Me.)............ 38 30 6 - 74
3-point goals--Emmanuel College 4-14 (Rob Williams-Hinton 1-3; Andres
Bustamante 1-2; Mike Jackson 1-5; Tyrone Buchanan 1-2; Tony Carter-Hill
0-2), St. Joseph's (Me.) 2-11 (Alberto Rue 1-1; Tyler Kelley 1-6; Chris
Petzy 0-2; Elbie Murphy 0-2). Fouled out--Emmanuel College-Tyrone Buchanan;
Eric Spanbauer, St. Joseph's (Me.)-None. Rebounds--Emmanuel College 37 (Mike
Jackson 8), St. Joseph's (Me.) 40 (Alberto Rue 8). Assists--Emmanuel College
11 (Mike Jackson 5), St. Joseph's (Me.) 21 (Elbie Murphy 5; Scot Vachon 5).
Total fouls--Emmanuel College 19, St. Joseph's (Me.) 13. Technical
fouls--Emmanuel College-None, St. Joseph's (Me.)-None. A-1184
Saint Joseph's College advances to NCAA DIII Tournament
All-Tournament Team: Abertus, St. Juste; Lasell, Guitan; Emmanuel, Williams-
Hinton & Jackson; St. Joe's, Eatmon & Murphy; Tourney MVP - Scot Vachon, SJC