STANDISH, ME – The Saint Joseph's College men's basketball team recorded another fine season last winter under eighth-year Head Coach Rob Sanicola '99.
The Monks went 20-8 overall with a 15-3 mark in Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) play en route to earning the top seed in the conference tournament - for the first time in four years as a member of the conference – in 2010-11. St. Joe's posted wins over Mount Ida and Norwich in the tourney before falling to #2 seed Johnson & Wales University in the championship game before a full house at the Alfond Center on February 26th.
The Monks have certainly found a home in the GNAC over the past four seasons, a span during which the Royal Blue has posted an impressive 52-20 (.722) in-conference record with four tourney appearances, six playoff victories and a GNAC Championship - and subsequent NCAA DIII Tournament berth - in 2009. Since joining the 10-team league in 2007, the Monks have had nine all-conference honorees and Sanicola has garnered a pair of Coach of the Year accolades.
Much of the Monks' offensive output, 34.6% to be exact, came by way of the three-pointer last winter. As a result of the success from downtown, Saint Joseph's led the NCAA – all levels (or 1,013 DI, DII and DIII programs) in three-point accuracy with a 43.2% (240-556) rate from beyond the mark. In all, four SJC players made at least 30 three-pointers during the 2010-11 campaign and last year's team broke the program records for trifectas made and 3FG%.
As if the team's three-point shooting prowess wasn't thrilling enough for the Royal Blue faithful, 12 of the Monks' 20 triumphs came by six points or less – the highest total of such victories in program history.
For the second year in a row - and 15th time in program history, Saint Joseph's began the season with three consecutive victories. The 2010-11 season-opener, a game against University of New England in Biddeford, Maine on November 17th, turned out to be a laugher as the visiting Monks toppled the Nor'easters by an 85-53 margin as four SJC players netted at least 10 points and 16 earned playing time. Senior guard Tyler Kelley (Saco, Maine) went 5-6 from beyond the arc and scored a game-high 15 points in the victory.
The Monks' scoring output was the team's highest in a season-opener since the Royal Blue defeated Southern Maine, 88-86, in the first game of the 2002-03 campaign and the margin of victory is the most in an SJC opener since the Monks blasted Gordon College by a 102-64 score on November 23rd, 1993. The winning margin was also the highest of the season for St. Joe's.
Saint Joseph's improved to 2-0 on the young season six days later when the Royal Blue faced University of Maine-Farmington in the 2010-11 home-opener. Neither team held more than an eight-point lead and the advantage swapped hands 10 times – with nine tie scores – but the Monks took the final lead in the last minute of play and held on to defeat the Beavers by a slim 69-67 margin. Kelley paced the team in scoring again with 17 while Zach O'Brien '12 (Schenectady, N.Y.) nearly notched a triple-double with 14 points, 10 boards and seven assists in the triumph.
With the win St. Joe's, 50-18 all-time versus Farmington, had defeated the Beavers in consecutive meetings for the first time since 2006. The Monks tipped UMF 59-57 last season but had dropped three straight games to their former conference rivals since 2006.
Up next for St. Joe's was another in-state rivalry matchup as the Monks made the short trek to Gorham, Maine for the annual Costello Cup game versus University of Southern Maine. The Royal Blue trailed by seven (44-37) at halftime but rallied behind a scoring blitz by Kelley, who led the visitors with 27 points, to post an 81-75 win and claim the Costello Cup – given each year to the winner of the rivalry game – for the third consecutive season. Anthony Savino '11 (Portland, Maine/Cheverus) added 10 points and nine caroms and Chris Petzy '12 (Kensington, N.H.) scored 19 in the win.
With the victory, St. Joe's improved to 13-8 in the Costello Cup series and now owns an all-time 30-32 record against the Huskies. The 156 points scored was the most in a Monks-Huskies game since St. Joe's defeated USM by an 83-78 score on January 3rd, 2005.
The Monks' bid for a perfect season ended on December 1st when Husson University handed Saint Joseph's its first loss, an 81-78 setback in Bangor, Maine. The tilt featured 17 lead-changes and was tied on 13 occasions, but the athletic Eagles held on for the win with some clutch scoring in the remaining minutes. O'Brien tallied 20 points, five assists and four boards and Petzy contributed 15 points and five rebounds in the losing effort.
With the loss, the Monks have now come up short against the Eagles in consecutive meetings for the first time since dropping three in a row to Husson during the 2005 calendar year. Saint Joseph's has not defeated Husson in consecutive meetings since 2002.
Emerson College was next on the docket for St. Joe's as the Lions came to town to play in the Monks' 2010-11 GNAC opener. Saint Joseph's improved to 4-1 on the year with a 79-74 triumph, but the path to victory was not smooth as the Lions cut the hosts' 10-point lead down to four with 33 seconds left. Thankfully, the Monks shot 11-12 from the FT line over the final two minutes to hang on for the win. Petzy, 10-12 from the charity stripe, tallied a game-high 20 points and added six rebounds and five assists and Kelley netted 19 in the conference victory.
The following game, a key matchup with eventual conference champion Johnson & Wales at home on December 8th, turned out to be one of the most memorable SJC men's basketball contests in recent memory. Both teams refused to go down easily and the result was a double-overtime 84-80 Monks victory behind Petzy's career-high 31 points, a tally that included a game-tying fade-away three-pointer to tie the game with seven seconds left in the first OT frame. Kelley added 19 points and O'Brien notched the 10th double-double of his career with 10 points and 10 boards in the thrilling win.
The double-overtime tilt was the only such game of Coach Sanicola's eight-year career – a total of 219 games – and, upon research, was the only 2-OT contest found over the Monks' last 14 seasons.
Unfortunately, Saint Joseph's was unable to take advantage of the momentum created by the exciting win as Suffolk University defeated the Royal Blue, 77-71, in Boston on December 11th to drop the Monks to 5-2 overall and 2-1 in GNAC play. O'Brien netted a team-high 19 points and Kelley contributed 13 in what was the first loss to Suffolk in team history.
Due to Christmas Vacation, St. Joe's didn't hit the hardwood again until December 30th when the Monks faced off against NCAA DI opponent Davidson College in North Carolina. With 11 players standing at 6'5 or taller, the Wildcats dominated the Monks and easily defeated the Royal Blue, 108-39. O'Brien scored 15 points and Petzy corralled seven rebounds in the one-sided setback.
For St. Joe's, the losing deficit (69 pts.) was the second-most in team history behind a 112-41 loss to Husson on February 18th, 1976. The 39 points scored is the Monks' third-lowest and the Wildcats' 108 points is the most allowed by an SJC team since Grinnell defeated the Monks by a 147-103 margin on January 2nd, 2004.
St. Joe's kicked off 2011 with a home game versus Bowdoin College on January 6th, but the New Year brought familiar results as the hosts dropped their third straight game by the tune of a 66-61 loss. The game was close throughout – neither team held more than a six-point cushion – but the Monks were unable to overcome the Polar Bears' 38-16 advantage in points in the paint. O'Brien and Petzy both tallied 11 points to lead the Royal Blue offensively and Clark Noonan '14 (Bangor, Maine) registered 11 points and six rebounds in his first collegiate start.
Fortunately, the Monks snapped the three-game skid two days later with an 81-67 triumph over GNAC-rival Emmanuel College. With 21 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists, O'Brien fell one dime short of becoming the SJC fourth player to record a triple-double and Petzy added 16 off a 9-9 effort from the FT line in the victory.
Saint Joseph's made a season-high 26 free throws 32 attempts from the charity stripe in the triumph over the Saints, which was the start of a four-game winning streak – with all the wins coming against conference opponents - for the Monks.
St. Joe's proceeded to defeat Norwich University, 77-74, at home on January 11th behind a program-record three-point shooting effort. Led by Petzy's five trifectas, the Monks drained a team-record 16 threes in a season-high 30 attempts and O'Brien led all scorers with 20 points in the conference win.
The Monks' previous record of 15 three-pointers made was registered first in a loss to Davidson on December 2nd, 1992 and later in a triumph over Norwich on February 6th, 2010.
The Monks' winning ways continued with a 76-70 decision over Lasell College on January 15th, when O'Brien led the way offensively yet again with 25 points off a 10-18 shooting effort from the field. Kelley, who tallied 11 points in the triumph, made the 150th three-pointer of his career and surpassed the 900-point plateau against the Lasers that afternoon. Also, Saint Joseph's shot a season-best 56.3% (27-48) from the field in the victory.
St. Joe's hit the road on January 17th for a game against 2010 GNAC Champion Albertus Magnus College and the Monks' high level of play continued as the Royal Blue trumped the Falcons 86-83 to gain sole possession of first place in the conference. Kelley enjoyed a career night with a personal-best 32 points while shooting 7-7 from three-point range and 12-14 from the field in the narrow victory.
Historically speaking, Kelley's scoring output ranks as the most points scored by an SJC player since Elbie Murphy '09 dropped 34 against Lincoln University on February 24th, 2007. His three-point tally places him in a tie for second on the list of most threes made in a game with Chad Pulkkinen '07, who drained seven against Briarcliffe College on January 5th, 2007.
Saint Joseph's faced Bates College – in the team's final non-conference game of the year - two days later and, unfortunately, the result fell in favor of the visiting Bobcats as the Monks' three-point shooting fizzled and the team suffered a 65-50 loss. Petzy netted 17 and added four assists in the setback, which saw the Royal Blue shoot just 25% (4-16) from beyond the arc and 39.6% (19-48) overall.
Aside from the loss to Davidson College, the Monks set season-lows in points, field goals made, 3PT% and rebounds in the losing effort to Bates. St. Joe's managed to right the ship after the setback, however, with six straight wins and a 9-2 record overall over the final month of the season.
The winning streak began with a 74-52 victory over Mount Ida College at the Alfond Center on February 22nd. Petzy paced the Monks in scoring for the second consecutive game with 19 points off a 7-10 effort from the field and a 5-7 performance from three-point range in the win, which saw the Royal Blue improve to 10-5 overall and 7-1 in conference contests.
St. Joe's proceeded to topple Rivier College, 77-57, at home on January 25th as O'Brien led the way with 20 points and Kelley added 16 with four steals. Two days later the Monks recorded the team's second five-point (58-53) win of the year over Emerson College behind Kelley's game-high 13 points.
Saint Joseph's, 0-4 versus Emerson prior to the 2009-10 campaign, has now won four straight versus the Lions to even the series at 4-4 heading into next season. The result on January 25th was the lowest combined scoring total of the Monks' 2010-11 campaign.
Led by O'Brien's 25 points, the Monks collected their fourth straight win with an 80-77 decision over Albertus Magnus at the Alfond Center on January 29th. The Falcons whittled a 20-point deficit down to just one point with 3:36 remaining in the game, but St. Joe's was able to hold off the comeback bid with six unanswered points and timely rebounding down the stretch.
With the important conference triumph, St. Joe's improved to 7-2 in the history of the series against Albertus Magnus College and held a 13-5 overall record, including a 10-1 GNAC mark, with seven regular-season games remaining.
Emmanuel College was next on the docket and fans flocked to the Alfond Center to take part in what was a memorable evening for Kelley, who became the 33rd SJC men's basketball player to reach the 1,000-point plateau that night. The Monks defeated the Saints by a comfortable 70-51 margin and Kelley scored 10 points, including a three-pointer 1:38 into the second half that pushed him past the milestone.
O'Brien paced the Royal Blue with 17 points while Petzy and Noonan – who also grabbed a team-high eight caroms - chipped in with 11 points apiece on the night.
St. Joe's upped its win streak to six games with an 80-75 victory over Suffolk on February 3rd at the Alfond and Kelley, seemingly at ease after scoring his 1,000th career point, led the way with 27 points off a 6-11 shooting effort from downtown. Petzy, who surpassed the 800-career-point mark against the Rams, netted 20 points that evening.
The Monks' string of victories was halted two days later when the Royal Blue suffered a 73-59 setback at Norwich University. The Cadets held a 33-31 lead at intermission and proceeded to outscore the Royal Blue by a 40-28 margin in the second stanza en route to the GNAC victory. Petzy tallied 17 points and O'Brien added 11 points and five assists in the loss.
The next contest, a game with Johnson & Wales in Providence, R.I., was a shootout that did not result in the Monks' favor as the Wildcats recorded a 106-90 win to further complicate the GNAC standings just two weeks before the start of the conference tournament. St. Joe's held a 49-46 cushion at the break, but the hosts posted a commanding 60-41 advantage in the second half to avenge a loss to St. Joe's earlier in the season and send the Monks back to Maine with a bitter taste in their mouths.
O'Brien tallied 28 points off an 11-17 shooting effort and added five boards and five dimes in the loss to Johnson & Wales. The scoring total (196 points) in the SJC-JWU was the highest of the Monks' 2010-11 season and the loss meant that Saint Joseph's had lost two in a row for just the second time all year.
St. Joe's got back on the winning track against Lasell College on February 12th, but it wasn't an easy ordeal as the tilt required an extra frame to decide the outcome. The Monks rallied from a 44-31 deficit at the break by outscoring the Lasers, 47-34, in the second stanza but the game stood at a 78-78 deadlock after regulation. St. Joe's, led by 58 combined points from Kelley (31) and O'Brien (27), was able to collect a 96-92 win with some clutch free-throw shooting in the closing minutes of OT.
The combined offensive performance by Kelley and O'Brien was the most points scored by an SJC duo last winter and Kelley became the first player to record a pair of 30-point efforts in the same season since Murphy netted 30 on three occasions in January of 2008. Also, the Monks recorded season highs in points, field goals made (35) and field goals attempted (66) versus Lasell.
All of the aforementioned statistics were overshadowed by the herculean offensive effort put up by Lasers sophomore Sean Bertanza, however, as the guard poured in 55 points off a 22-32 shooting performance in a losing effort. Bertanza's point total was the highest recorded in all of NCAA Men's Basketball - all levels -last season and ranks as the second-most scored by an SJC opposing player. His scoring output also ranks as the most ever scored in the Harold Alfond Center Gymnasium, which opened in the fall of 2000.
The Lasell victory was the start of a winning streak that would not end until the GNAC Championship two weeks later. Next up was a road game on February 15th when the Monks disposed of Rivier College by a 78-51 tally behind a 20-point performance from O'Brien, who became the 34th member of the team's 1,000-point club that evening. The Monks' margin of victory was the team's second-highest of the year.
O'Brien became just the 12th player in program history to reach the 1,000-point mark during their junior season and the first since Murphy accomplished the feat in 2008. Also, with Kelley hitting the milestone earlier in the year, it is the eighth time in team history that two or more players have reached the landmark during the same season and the first such occurrence since Carl Howell '99 and Mike Fortier '98 did so during the 1997-98 campaign.
Saint Joseph's went on to cap the regular season with an 80-74 victory at Mount Ida on February 19th. Kelley dropped a game-high 26 points and shot 7-12 from beyond the arc in the win, which provided the Royal Blue with the top seed - and home-court advantage - in the GNAC Tournament for the first time in four years as a member of the conference.
O'Brien, with 20 points, 10 caroms and seven assists, helped the Monks kick off the tourney with an 82-71 triumph over #8 Mount Ida College at the Alfond on February 22nd. Petzy added 20 points and shot 10-12 from the FT line while Kelley netted 16 and Savino chipped in with 10 points in the playoff opener.
With the win, Saint Joseph's advanced to the semifinals and hosted #4 Norwich University two days later. The Monks avenged a loss suffered earlier in the year at the hands of the Cadets with a convincing 72-56 triumph to move on to the championship game for the second time in the last four years. Petzy netted a game-high 21 points off a 6-8 performance from three-point distance and Noonan nearly notched his first collegiate double-double with eight points and 10 rebounds in the playoff triumph.
Top-seeded Saint Joseph's and #2 Johnson & Wales faced off in the highly-anticipated 2011 GNAC Tournament Championship on February 26th and, although the Monks would fall short, the contest certainly lived up to its billing. A tightly-contested first half saw the Royal Blue carry a 36-34 edge into intermission, but the Wildcats opened the second stanza on a 12-0 run en route to a 76-66 victory and, with the triumph, advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the second time in program history.
St. Joe's, led by a 15-point, eight-rebound effort by O'Brien, was unable to contain Wildcats junior guard Lamonte Thomas as he and teammate Louis Ferreras combined to score 53 of the visitor's 76 points on the afternoon. Thomas, the 2011 GNAC Player of the Year, shot 12-15 from the field and 9-11 from the charity stripe to account for a game-high 33 points in the Wildcats' championship win.
The loss was the Monks' first to a GNAC opponent at the Alfond Center all season. In four years as a GNAC member, St. Joe's has notched a remarkable 35-8 (.814) record against conference opponents at home.
The first men's hoops class to participate in the GNAC during each of their four seasons, Savino and Kelley – the Monks' lone seniors last year - helped the Royal Blue post a 74-36 (.673) overall record and a 52-20 (.722) mark in conference play during their career (both team records rank as GNAC bests over the four-year window). With their contributions, the Monks advanced to the GNAC Tournament in each of the past four seasons and captured the conference crown as a second-year member of the league in 2009.
- O'Brien, a co-captain last winter, became just the second player in program history to lead the Monks in scoring (16.9 PPG), rebounding (4.8 RPG) and assists (4.3 APG) last winter and garnered First Team All-GNAC, Second Team All-State, and GNAC All-Tournament Team honors for his efforts.
- Kelley, a 2011 Second Team All-GNAC selection, averaged 14.7 PPG and shot 44.7% (84-188) from three-point range as a senior when he led the GNAC in trifectas made and ranked second in 3FG%. He capped his career with 1,149 points, 264 rebounds, 97 assists and 98 steals in 104 games and leaves the program as the Monks' all-time leader in three-point field goal percentage (43.9%, 199-453). He also ranks second all-time in 3FG made and 3FG attempted.
- Petzy averaged 15.4 points and 3.8 boards per game last season and paced the GNAC with a 45.5% (65-143) success rate from downtown in 2011. The junior co-captain ranked third in the conference in FT% (82.5%, 99-120) and paced the Royal Blue in free throws made.
- Sophomore point guard Julio Vazquez (Waterbury, Conn.) recorded a solid season running the Monks' offense and averaged 5.1 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.2 steals per game.
- Savino netted 4.1 points and 2.9 rebounds per contest and paced the Royal Blue with 11 blocked shots as a senior. He closed out his career with 264 points, 190 boards, 55 assists, 30 blocks and 21 steals in 89 games over four seasons.
- Three freshmen - Noonan, Matthew Medeiros (Westport, Mass.) and Nicholas Jobin (Westbrook, Maine) - made significant contributions during their first NCAA season and will be heavily relied upon for the next three years. Noonan, a 6'6 center, made 18 starts and averaged 5.0 points and 4.4 rebounds per game and Medeiros, a sharpshooting guard with the hoops savvy of an upperclassman, netted 6.4 points per game and shot 43.8% (32-73) from beyond the arc last winter. Despite a somewhat uneven performance as a rookie, great things are expected from Jobin, an athletic 6'6 forward who averaged 3.9 points and 3.0 boards per tilt while appearing in all 28 games as a rookie.
Sanicola, 139-80 (.635) after eight seasons at the helm, will look to have his Monks in the thick of the GNAC Tournament yet again next season when four starters - and 12 players overall - return. With a strong incoming freshman class, SJC followers should expect another exciting men's basketball campaign next winter.