STANDISH, ME – The Saint Joseph's College Men's Basketball team, under the guidance of seventh-year Head Coach Rob Sanicola '99, enjoyed another outstanding campaign during the winter of 2009-10.
Although the Monks fell short of defending the 2009 Great Northeast Athletic Conference Championship crown, the Royal Blue played exceedingly well and posted a 19-7 overall record with a 14-4 effort in GNAC play. The conference record was good for the #3 seed in the GNAC Tournament and five of the Monks' seven defeats were by five points or less. Also, St. Joe's lost consecutive games on just one occasion all year.
Expectations for the season may have been slightly altered due to the fact that the program lost six seniors (11 players in total), including three starters – Captain Mitch Ouellet, GNAC Tournament MVP Scot Vachon, and two-time All-GNAC honoree Elbie Murphy - to graduation last spring. However, this group, led by senior captains Ray Eatmon (Huntington, NY) and Alberto Rue (Jamaica Plain, MA), responded with a campaign that supplemented the program's winning tradition.
Fans that weren't sure what to expect from this young squad witnessed an exciting brand of basketball that was reminiscent of some of the most formidable SJC teams in program history. Employing a quick-paced offensive approach with a stable of capable shooters, the Monks increased production across the board and led the GNAC in both field goal percentage (.488, 740-1517) and three-point percentage (.389, 153-393) and ranked second in the league in free-throw efficiency (.720, 350-486).
St. Joe's also paced the conference in rebounding defense (34.6), assists (16.7 APG), assist/turnover ratio (1.1) and defensive rebounds (27.0 DRPG) and led all of NCAA DIII Men's Basketball with an average of 13.0 personal fouls per game.
The Monks kicked off the 2009-10 season with a home contest against a fellow 2009 NCAA Tournament selection – University of New England. The Nor'easters, 10-23 from beyond the arc in the opening half, used three-point shooting to build a 34-26 lead heading into the break. But the visitors' touch from downtown disappeared in the second stanza, as the Monks outscored their in-state rivals, 45-29, on their way to a 71-63 triumph. St. Joe's swingman Zach O'Brien '12 (Schenectady, NY) led all scorers with 16 points in the season opener.
On November 23rd, the Royal Blue made a trip to University of Maine-Farmington to face off against the Beavers. St. Joe's, losers of three straight to UMF, weren't to be denied on this night. Although the eventual NAC Champion Beavers remained in the game for the duration, their only lead came in the opening minutes as the Monks headed back to Standish with a 59-57 victory in tow. Tyler Kelley '11 (Saco, ME), 4-5 from three-point distance, led the Monks with 16 points in the victory.
Saint Joseph's hosted Southern Maine six days later in a battle for the coveted Costello Cup, which goes to the winner of the in-state rival matchup each year. The Monks raced out to a 37-26 halftime lead and went on to earn a 73-61 win thanks to a balanced offensive attack that featured four SJC players with at least 10 points. O'Brien netted 24 points with eight boards and Kelley added 15 points for the Monks, who retained possession of the Costello Cup after defeating USM the previous year as well.
On December 1st, Husson University dealt the Monks their first loss of the 2009-10 campaign, as the Eagles prevailed over the Royal Blue, 89-84, at the Alfond Center. The first half featured six lead changes and seven ties, but the visitors pulled away in the second half en route to the five point win. O'Brien posted the second double-double of his career with 24 points and 10 caroms and Chris Petzy '12 (Kensington, NH) netted 15 points in the losing effort.
Up next for the Monks was a contest in Boston on December 5th against Emerson College, a team St. Joe's had yet to defeat in two years as a member of the GNAC. Thanks in part to a 19-26 effort from the FT line, including a stellar 11-13 performance in the closing minutes, St. Joe's defeated the Lions by a 75-66 score in what was the GNAC opener for both squads. O'Brien led all scorers with 19 points, while Kelley added 18 and point guard Rashon Jones '11 (Bridgeport, CT) chipped in with 17 in the triumph.
St. Joe's hit the road again five days later for another GNAC contest, this time versus Johnson & Wales University in Providence, RI. Despite a poor effort from the line and the inability to protect the ball (22 turnovers), the Monks improved to 5-1 overall and 2-0 in league play due to a strong shooting performance (29-54, 53.7%) and a dominant outing on the glass, as the Royal Blue outrebounded the Wildcats, 48-25, in a 74-70 victory. Kelley poured in 23 points to lead St. Joe's offensively, while Jones notched the first double-double of his career with 12 points and 11 rebounds.
The Monks then hosted Suffolk University on December 12th in the team's final contest of the 2009 calendar year. St. Joe's closed out 2009 with one of the Monks' most convincing victories of the season, as the Royal Blue toppled the Rams, 83-64, to remain perfect (3-0) in GNAC play heading into the New Year. Kelley scored 16 to lead the Monks, while Rue added 14 and Eatmon contributed with 12 points.
Saint Joseph's opened the 2010 portion of the schedule with a non-conference contest against perennial powerhouse Farmingdale State College at the Alfond Center on January 2nd. The Monks prevailed, 82-76, after 40 hard-fought minutes of play in a game that featured 10 lead changes. Kelley and Petzy both scored 19 to lead the Royal Blue past the Rams, who advanced to the Elite 8 in the NCAA Tournament last year.
St. Joe's squared off against Bowdoin College in Brunswick, ME four days later, where the Monks earned a closely-contested 83-82 victory over the Polar Bears, largely due to an outstanding 91.3% (21-23) performance from the free throw line. Petzy was perfect (7-7 FG, 5-5 3FG, 3-3 FT) from the floor and the line and led the Monks with 22 points in a game that saw 11 lead changes and was tied on nine occasions.
On January 9th, Emmanuel College made the trip to Standish to face off against St. Joe's in a rematch of the 2009 GNAC Championship. The Monks, victors over the Saints in the 2009 title matchup by a 74-72 count in overtime, proceeded to roll past Emmanuel by 21 points, 86-65, on this day with the help of a game-high 23 points from Kelley and 20 from Petzy.
The Monks' winning streak was halted at six games three days later when Norwich University tipped the Monks, 72-71, in Northfield, VT. St. Joe's held the lead for the majority of play, but the Cadets were able to convert a traditional three-point play with one-tenth of a second remaining to collect the victory. Eatmon notched his first double-double of the year with 16 points and 13 boards and Kelley netted 15 in the losing effort.
With a career-best 29 points, O'Brien led St. Joe's over Lasell College, 78-67, at the Alfond Center on January 16th, but the Monks proceeded to drop consecutive games, with losses to Albertus Magnus and Bates, over the next five days.
The Monks were able to put the defeats behind them, however, and rattled off three straight conference wins over Mount Ida, Rivier and Emerson.
Kelley scored a game-high 16 points to lead four SJC scorers with 10 or more points and Eatmon netted 15 with 15 boards in the 71-56 win over Mount Ida on January 23rd and O'Brien lifted the Monks to victory with a basket with eight-tenths of a second left in a 77-76 triumph over Rivier three days later. Saint Joseph's improved to 13-4 overall and 8-2 in GNAC games with a 71-63 win over Emerson at the Alfond Center on January 28th, as Jones (15 points, 10 boards) and Eatmon (13 points, 12 boards) both notched double-double efforts against the Lions.
On January 30th, Saint Joseph's made a trip to New Haven, CT where the Monks squared off against eventual GNAC Champion Albertus Magnus College. The game started off well for the Royal Blue, as the Monks carried a nine-point lead (49-40) into intermission, but the Falcons managed to overcome the deficit with a dominant second stanza and came out on top, 81-76. For the Monks, the loss was essentially a carbon copy of the one they suffered to AMC just 12 days prior; as St. Joe's led by nine at the break in that game as well but witnessed the Falcons mount a comeback effort to steal the victory. Petzy led all scorers with 26 points and O'Brien notched a double-double with 22 points and 11 rebounds in the losing effort.
St. Joe's displayed a high level of mental toughness, however, as the Monks would not let one loss tarnish the season's efforts. The Royal Blue went on to win four straight conference games, with victories over Emmanuel, Suffolk, Norwich and Johnson & Wales, over the next 10 days.
Saint Joseph's trailed by 16, 38-22, at the half at Emmanuel, but basically “flipped” the score in the second stanza en route to a tight 62-60 triumph over the Saints on February 1st. Petzy scored 16 and led four Monks' scorers in double digits.
Eatmon netted a season-high 25 points with 13 caroms and O'Brien added 17 points for the Monks in a 75-66 win over Suffolk on February 4th. St. Joe's trailed by eight at halftime, but outscored the hosts, 43-28, in the second half en route to the important conference win.
Norwich, victors over St. Joe's with a last-second three-point play back in early January, was next on the docket for the Monks, who were motivated to even the score from the earlier matchup. As much as the first game of the year between the GNAC rivals was a thrilling contest, this one wasn't, as St. Joe's rolled over the Cadets, 96-74, and dominated in every facet of the game. The Monks tied a program record with an astounding 15 three-pointers and shot 57.7% (15-26) from beyond the arc in the lopsided triumph. O'Brien led the way with 21 points and a 5-8 performance from three-point distance, while Rue shot 4-6 from long range and also tallied 21 points for the Monks.
Six SJC players scored at least 10 points and the Monks overcame a one-point halftime deficit to top JWU, 76-68, at the Alfond Center on February 9th. St. Joe's improved to 17-5 overall and 12-3 in conference contests with the victory, which was due in part to Kelley scoring nine of his 13 points in the closing minutes.
Saint Joseph's went on to visit Newton, MA on February 13th for a game against GNAC-rival Lasell College. The Monks held a slim 41-40 advantage at the break, but the Lasers managed to outlast the visitors en route to a 79-75 victory. Petzy led the Royal Blue with 18 points in the conference contest, which featured 14 lead changes and seven deadlocks.
The Monks drained 13 three-pointers and shot 59.1% (13-22) in a lopsided win over Rivier College in Standish four days later. Petzy scored 14 points in the second stanza and led all players with 19 in the SJC victory.
The Monks wrapped up the 2009-10 regular season with a game against Mount Ida College at the Alfond Center on February 17th. St. Joe's put the game away early and held a commanding 55-32 lead heading into the locker room at halftime. Kelley scored a career-high 31 points and shot 13-18 from the field in the 83-61 win.
With the convincing win over Mount Ida, St. Joe's earned the #3 seed in the GNAC Men's Basketball Tournament, which for the Monks began on February 23rd with a game against #6 Lasell at the Alfond Center. The Monks played well in the early going, but the Lasers gained a lead halfway through the first stanza and refused to relinquish the advantage. St. Joe's trailed, 42-31, at the break and managed to outscore the visitors, 39-33, in the second half, but was unable to come up with a key defensive stop late in the game. As a result, the Monks' hopes of defending the 2009 GNAC Championship were dashed in the opening round of the 2010 playoffs. Jones and O'Brien both scored 13 points for St. Joe's in the season-ending loss.
The defeat signaled the end of collegiate basketball for Eatmon and Rue, a duo that provided sizeable on-and-off-the-court contributions in their four years. Both were members of the 2006 team that won NCAA DIII Northeast Independent and advanced to the ECAC DIII Championship contest as well as the 2009 squad that captured the GNAC Championship. The Monks posted a 76-36 (.679) record over the last four seasons and both players figure prominently into the team's successes.
Several players enjoyed outstanding seasons:
- O'Brien led the Monks with a 14.5 PPG average and earned Second Team All-GNAC honors following the season. He led the Royal Blue in scoring in eight different games and netted at least 20 points in six contests as a sophomore.
- Eatmon earned All-GNAC Second Team and All-State Second Team accolades after the season's completion and averaged 10.0 PPG with a team-high 8.1 rebounds per game. He became the 32nd player in team history to reach the 1,000-point plateau with a basket against Mount Ida on February 20th. He capped his career with a trio of All-Conference selections and is the only Monk to amass 1,000 points, 750 rebounds, 200 assists and 100 blocked shots in their career.
- Kelley ranked second on the team with a 14.3 PPG mark and earned his first All-Conference nod with a Second Team selection in 2010. He led the Monks in three-pointers made (51) and ranked second on the squad in 3FG% (41.1%, 51-124).
- Petzy ranked third on the Monks with a 13.7 PPG output and paced the team in three-point efficiency with a 43.6% (44-101) effort from long distance. He also led the squad in FT% (78.5%, 51-65) as a sophomore.
- Jones enjoyed a solid junior campaign, with career-high marks in points per game (9.3), rebounds per game (6.5), assists per game (2.6) and blocked shots (37).
- Rue netted 9.1 points per game and shot 73.2% (52-71) from the charity stripe as a senior.
Coach Sanicola (119-72, .623) heads into his eighth year as the Monks' clipboard carrier with four starters, as well as several key contributors off the bench, returning. With the addition of a talented freshman class, look for Saint Joseph's to contend for the GNAC Championship once again in 2010-11.
Back (L-R): Head Coach Rob Sanicola, Student
Assistant Mark Price, Rashon Jones, Tom Ray, Eric
Front (L-R): Connor Piers, Jack LaFreniere,
Julio Vazquez, Alberto Rue, Ray Eatmon, Chris Petzy,