STANDISH, ME - When the 2009 campaign began, the Monks Basketball team had one goal: to capture the program's first Great Northeast Athletic Conference title and advance to the NCCA Tournament. On February 28th, the objective was realized in a dramatic 74-72 overtime victory over Emmanuel College in the GNAC Championship at the Harold Alfond Center Gymnasium. The capacity crowd rushed the court to help the team, guided by six seniors, celebrate the triumph as the Monks were on their way to making the program's second trip to "The Dance" in its seventh year as an NCAA DIII member.
With a 21-8 overall record, the Monks eclipsed the 20-win plateau for the 16th time in program history and the second in Head Coach Rob Sanicola's '99 six years at the helm. For Sanicola, the 2009 GNAC and MMBCWA Coach of the Year, the GNAC clincher marked his 100 th career win.
Several individuals garnered All-Conference and All-State honors as well. Junior forward Ray Eatmon (Huntington, NY), with 12.8 PPG and 9.3 RPG averages, was a First Team recipient for the GNAC and the MMBCWA, and senior forward Elbie Murphy (Loudonville, ME) collected postseason honors as a Second Team recipient on both the GNAC and MMBCWA teams after netting 11.1 PPG. Freshman guard Zach O'Brien (Schenectady, NY) was voted to the MMBCWA All-Rookie Team after averaging 8.6 points and 4.4 boards per game in 2009.
Senior point guard Scot Vachon (Schenectady, NY) garnered GNAC Tournament Most Valuable Player honors after averaging 10.3 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists in three playoff contests. Possibly more important than his statistics was the fact that the court general played his typical shutdown defense against some of the best backcourt players in the conference on the Monks' title run.
St. Joe's kicked off the season with an 83-57 win on the road over Maine Maritime on November 18th. Murphy paced five SJC players who reached double digits with a 17 point effort as the Monks shot 51.6% from the floor.
The Monks improved to 2-0 four days later with an 83-81 victory over the University of New England. The game featured eight lead changes, but Vachon sank a pair of freebies with 31 seconds left to provide the Royal Blue with the final swing. Eatmon scored a career-high, and individual-season high, 31 points to go with seven boards and five helpers in the win over the Nor'easters, who went on to win 19 straight contests en route to capturing the program's first TCCC title. St. Joe's collectively shot a season high 55.7% (34-61) from the field in the triumph.
The men travelled to Gorham to take on Southern Maine on November 30th after suffering a 69-59 loss to Farmington in the Monks' home opener five days earlier. St. Joe's reclaimed the Costello Cup by defeating the Huskies, 72-55, with the help of O'Brien, who led the way with 18 points and eight boards.
Saint Joseph's improved to 4-1 with a 58-52 triumph over Norwich in a GNAC opener at "The Lake" on December 3rd . Tyler Kelley '11 (Saco, ME) poured in a game-high 22 points in the conference conquest.
The Monks hosted GNAC rival Johnson & Wales three days later and toppled the Wildcats, 71-61, to improve to 5-1 overall and 2-0 in league play. Collectively, the hosts shot 85.7% (18-21) from the charity stripe, and Eatmon paced all scorers with 20 points in the victory.
Next up for the Royal Blue was a trip to Bangor to take on in-state rival Husson University. The Monks handily defeated the Eagles, 90-65, with Eatmon again leading the victors having tallied 18 points in the win. Murphy broke the program career steals record by grabbing his 288 th loose ball early in the second half. The 90-point output was the most for the Monks in 2009.
On December 13th St. Joe's took on Lasell College in Newton, MA. The game between the GNAC heavyweights stood at a 40-40 stalemate going into intermission, but the Lasers outscored the visitors 40-20 in the second half to earn the win. Murphy scored 14 points in the losing effort as the Monks fell to 6-2 overall and 2-1 in conference play.
St. Joe's closed out the 2008 portion of its schedule by defeating Bates College, 68-65, at "The Lake" on December 16th. The Monks and Bobcats swapped leads on seven occasions in the contest and neither team held a lead of more than six points in the second half. Murphy netted 15 points and Chris Petzy '12 (East Kingston, NH) chipped in with 14 to help St. Joe's snap a five-game losing streak, going back to 2003, against Bates.
The Monks opened the New Year by snapping another winless streak versus a NESCAC opponent, this time defeating Bowdoin College, 74-70, in Standish on January 3rd. Kelley made five three-pointers and scored a game-high 22 points as the Royal Blue made 11 treys and shot 55% from beyond the arc, both season team highs, to snap a five game losing streak against the Polar Bears and improve to 8-2 overall.
With the non-conference portion of the docket now complete, the Monks turned their attention to the 15 remaining GNAC games on the schedule, beginning with a game at Suffolk on January 7th . With the help of a career-high 26 points from Kelley, who shot 5-6 from downtown, St. Joe's handled the Rams 88-76 and stood at 3-1 in conference play and 9-2 overall.
Saint Joseph's went on to drop two straight games for the first time during the 2009 season, losing to GNAC opponents Rivier and Johnson & Wales in the following week. Chris Davis '11 (New York, NY) scored 22 in the loss to Rivier on January 10th and Eatmon posted his first double-double effort of the year against JWU on January 13th.
The Monks halted the short skid by winning four straight conference contests, starting with a 78-66 triumph over Mount Ida on the road on January 17th . Eatmon notched another double-double with 16 points and 10 caroms and O'Brien chipped in with 16 points in the win as the Monks improved to 10-4 overall and 4-3 in GNAC play.
Eatmon posted his third straight double-double, scoring 11 points with 10 boards, and O'Brien continued to impress in his rookie campaign with 15 points as the Monks defeated Emmanuel at "The Lake" on January 19th. St. Joe's held a slim 33-29 lead going into halftime, but put the game away by shooting 19-22 from the line in the second half.
The Royal Blue continued their winning ways by defeating a young and talented Albertus Magnus squad, 84-73, at home on January 24th. Eatmon was dominant under the bucket yet again, scoring 16 points and adding 14 boards to notch his fourth straight double-double, and Kelley netted 24 points as the Monks increased their record to 6-3 in the conference and 12-4 overall.
A trip to Northfield, VT to take on Norwich was next on the docket for Saint Joseph's, and the travelers did not make the trip in vain. The Monks marched past the Cadets, 77-55 with the help of a balanced attack yet again, as Kelley led the way with 16 points and Eatmon added 14 points and 11 caroms to extend his double-double streak to five games.
St. Joe's took on Emerson on January 31st at the Alfond in a battle for second place in the conference. The Monks led by as much as nine points in the first half, only to see the advantage dwindle as the Lions took a 48-36 lead into the break. St. Joe's fought back by outscoring the visitors by ten in the second stanza, but fell short, 79-77, as the team's four-game winning streak came to a halt. Eatmon dropped a team-high 21 points and Kelley added 19 in the losing effort.
The Monks went on to fall to Rivier for the second time during the season, 82-65, in Nashua on February 2nd. St. Joe's held a 42-41 lead at halftime, but the Raiders, who shot 63% from floor in the first half, went on to shoot at a 61.8% clip in the second stanza to roll to victory. The Monks, who countered with a meager 24.2% success rate from the floor in the latter half, fell to 13-6, 7-5 in GNAC play, after dropping two straight games for the second, and final, time of the year.
Saint Joseph's followed the two-game slide by winning five of the six remaining games on the schedule. Suffolk came to "The Lake" on February 5th and headed back to Boston several hours later after suffering an 86-51 defeat at the hands of the Monks. St. Joe's shot 53.1% from the floor and never trailed as Chris Davis netted a game-high 21 points and Eatmon collected his sixth double-double of the year with 12 points and 11 rebounds in the triumph.
Two days later, the Monks hosted the Mustangs of Mount Ida College in a conference contest, winning 70-58 to improve to 9-5 in GNAC play and 15-6 overall. Murphy led all scorers with 16 points and Vachon added 15 in the win. Eatmon corralled a season-high 16 boards against the Mustangs.
St. Joe's then made the trek to New Haven, CT to take on Albertus Magnus College and headed back up north with a thrilling 87-86 win over the Falcons. In a game that featured nine lead changes, O'Brien's pair of freebies with three clicks on the clock gave the Monks a four-point cushion, which proved necessary after the Falcons tacked on a three at the buzzer to account for the final score. Murphy, with the help of a 5-7 performance from three-point range, led all scorers with 24 points and O'Brien collected his first collegiate double-double with 19 points and 13 boards, both career bests. Eatmon added 14 points and 14 caroms to post his seventh double-dip of the year as St. Joe's saw its record swell to 16-6 overall and 10-5 in GNAC competition.
The Monks' hard luck against Emerson College continued with a 73-57 loss to the Lions in Boston on Valentine's Day. Alberto Rue '10 (Jamaica Plain, MA) poured in a game-high 19 points and Murphy, with 12 points in the loss, became the 10 th player in team history to reach the 1,400-point plateau.
The loss to the Lions meant the Monks would have to recover quickly in order to ensure the right to host a first-round tournament contest. The path would not be simple, however, as the pair of games remaining on the schedule were against two of the top teams in the conference: Emmanuel and Lasell.
The Monks went to work against Emmanuel in Boston on February 17th, defeating the Saints 82-75 to guarantee a home game in the first round of the conference playoffs. St. Joe's never trailed in the victory and was led by Murphy, who netted 22 points and added 10 assists.
The much-ballyhooed season finale against Lasell College, the 2009 GNAC Regular Season champs, lived up to its billing. With the help of a 17-0 run late in the first half, the Monks took a 38-28 lead into intermission. The Lasers managed to outscore the Royal Blue, 46-43, in the second stanza, but it was not enough as the Monks had captured an 84-71 win. Six players scored at least eight points, with Kelley leading the way with 12. Murphy grabbed six caroms against the Lasers, making him the third player in program history to accumulate 1,400 points, 500 rebounds and 300 assists in their career.
With the win over Lasell, Saint Joseph's had earned the #3 seed and the right to host sixth-seeded Rivier on February 24 th . For the Monks, who fell to the Raiders in both meetings prior to the GNAC Quarterfinal matchup, the third meeting proved to be a charm as the Royal Blue toppled the visitors, 85-67, in the first conference tournament game hosted at the Harold Alfond Center. Kelley drained all four of his attempts from beyond the arc and led the Monks with 16 points and Chris Davis chipped in with 15 in the win.
On the same night, seventh-seeded Albertus Magnus upset #2 Emerson. As a result, St. Joe's, as the higher seed, was set to host the upstart Falcons in a GNAC Semi-final contest on February 26th. The fast-paced game was up in the air for most of the first half, but the Monks utilized a pair of scoring outbursts late in the first stanza to take a 36-28 lead into intermission. St. Joe's held at least a share of the lead in the second half and went on to collect a 75-64 victory and entrance into the GNAC Championship game. Four players tallied double-digit point totals in the win for the Monks, as Kelley and Eatmon scored 14 points apiece to lead the attack.
Most onlookers believed that the Monks would be on the road in the title contest against top-seeded Lasell, but #4 Emmanuel pushed the talented Lasers to the brink and beyond in the other GNAC Semi-final, winning 94-91 in double overtime. St. Joe's would host a third GNAC tournament game, this time the championship, against the Saints on February 28th.
St. Joe's required overtime to hold off Emmanuel in the spine-tingling title game. The Monks led 38-29 at the half, but the Saints managed to stay in the game and tied the contest at the buzzer, sending the championship to an extra frame. The teams swapped leads in overtime, but the Royal Blue clinched the win when a wide-open Murphy scored on a backdoor play off an Eatmon pass with two seconds left. Nearly all of the 1,184 fans in attendance joined the Monks in celebration on the court when the final buzzer rang.
With the GNAC Championship, Saint Joseph's earned an automatic qualifier into the NCAA DIII Tournament and would play at Bridgewater State in the opening round. The Bears, who shot 61.3% from the field in the first stanza, held a 42-30 lead at the break. The Monks, after shooting 40% in the first half, responded by connecting on 52.8% of their attempts in the second half. The effort was overshadowed by an astounding 73.1% clip by Bridgewater in the latter stanza, as the Monks were handed a 95-79 defeat in the first round. Kelley scored 16 points and Chris Davis added 14 in the season-ending loss.
The season's end marked the final game in a Monks uniform for six seniors: Murphy, Vachon, Bobby Russo (Hartsdale, NY), R.J. Mattison (Hamden, CT), Jay Tutwiler (Sarasota, FL) and team captain Mitch Ouellet (Fort Kent, ME). The group's abilities on and off the hard-court will be missed as the Royal Blue looks to replicate the success enjoyed by the 2009 squad in the coming seasons.