STANDISH, ME – Saint Joseph's College (20-7, 15-3 GNAC) will appear in the GNAC Championship game for the second time in three years after defeating Norwich University (16-11, 11-7 GNAC), 72-56, in a semifinal tilt at the Alfond Center on Thursday night. Chris Petzy '12 (Kensington, NH) scored a game-high 21 points off a 6-8 performance from three-point range and added seven caroms in the playoff win.
The top-seeded Monks will host #2 Johnson & Wales (19-8, 14-4 GNAC) in the conference championship at the Alfond on Saturday at 2:00 PM. The Wildcats toppled #3 Albertus Magnus, the reigning GNAC champs, 128-107, in the other conference semifinal game this evening.
Saint Joseph's defeated Emmanuel College in an epic overtime tilt at the Alfond Center on February 28th, 2009 to capture the program's first GNAC crown as a second-year member of the conference.
The Monks trailed by as many as eight points in the first half, but the Royal Blue took the lead for good when Anthony Savino '11 (Portland, ME/Cheverus) scored a layup 3:33 before the break. Saint Joseph's boasted a scorching 72.7% (8-11) three-point effort in the second stanza, and a healthy 51.9% (14-27) mark overall, en route to the 16-point win.
For St. Joe's, 2011 First Team All-GNAC honoree Zach O'Brien '12 (Schenectady, NY) tallied 16 points, four assists and three steals and Julio Vazquez '13 (Waterbury, CT) added 11 points, five boards and four assists. Clark Noonan '14 (Bangor, ME) provided plenty of energy and added 10 rebounds and eight points for the Royal Blue.
Jaren Jeffcoat '11 (Dallas, TX) paced the Cadets with 14 points and was the only Norwich hoopster to notch a double-digit point total. Antonio Davis '12 (Albany, NY) contributed eight points and 10 caroms and Quincy Williams '11 (St. Louis, MO) netted eight points and eight caroms in a losing effort.
Saint Joseph's jumped out to 6-2 lead in the opening minutes off threes from Petzy and Vazquez, but the Cadets proceeded to net 12 unanswered points to secure a 14-6 lead with 10:32 remaining in the first half. The Monks mustered a 10-2 run of their own and had knotted the game at 16-all after O'Brien drilled a three-pointer at the 6:46 mark.
The game stood at an 18-18 deadlock nearly two minutes later, but Saint Joseph's carried momentum into the break after outscoring Norwich by a 12-6 margin over the closing three minutes of the opening period. As a result, the Monks took a 30-24 lead into the locker room.
Saint Joseph's shot 32.4% from floor, 37.5% from three-point land, and 100% (2-2) from the FT line in the first half. Norwich shot 35.7% from the field and missed all six trifecta bids while shooting 57.1% from the stripe in the opening period.
O'Brien topped the first-half scoring chart with 10 points, while Jeffcoat tallied eight to lead the visitors before intermission.
The game quickly got out of hand in the second half, as St. Joe's used the long ball to secure a 20-point lead from which the Cadets would not recover. The Monks posted a 19-5 run and went 5-6 from beyond the arc and held a 49-29 cushion when Vazquez connected on his second trey of the surge at the 15:18 mark.
The Monks would extend their lead to a game-high 24 points seven minutes later when Petzy made his sixth three-pointer of the game with 8:31 remaining.
St. Joe's held a 68-47 advantage after O'Brien hit a jumper at the 4:56 mark, but the Cadets mounted a comeback bid with a 9-1 run that cut their deficit to 13 points – 69-56 – with 2:35 left. It was too little, too late for the visitors, however, as the final bucket of the Norwich run, a three-pointer from Jeffcoat, would be the Cadets' last of the contest.
Overall, Saint Joseph's shot 36.9% (24-65) from the floor, 51.9% (14-27) from downtown, and 71.4% (10-14) from the charity stripe on the night. Norwich shot 35.6% (21-59) from the field, 25% (3-12) from three-point land, and 68.8% (11-16) from the FT line in the loss.
Norwich held advantages on points in the paint (34-14) and bench points (29-11) but was not able to overcome the Monks' lights-out effort from three-point distance. St. Joe's held a lead in rebounds (40-39) and assists (15-9).
With the win, St. Joe's improves to 6-3 in the history of the series with Norwich. The Cadets dealt the Monks a 73-59 defeat in the last meeting between the conference rivals, which took place earlier this season.
Saint Joseph's enters the GNAC Championship just four three pointers shy of breaking the team's single-season mark. The 1998-99 team made 238 trifectas in 29 games, while this year's squad has drained 234 treys in 27 tilts.
O'Brien (459 points), Petzy (417) and 2011 Second Team All-GNAC choice Tyler Kelley '11 (Saco, ME) (404) are the first Monks trio to reach the 400-point plateau in the same season in 19 years. Three players have scored at least 400 points in the same season five times in program history, with the last occurrence being the 1991-92 campaign.
Marcus Smith '92 (439), Stephen Chase '93 (432) and Jamie Header '93 (409) were the last SJC trifecta to accomplish the feat.