STANDISH, ME – Saint Joseph's (3-0) required overtime to defeat University of Southern Maine (4-1), 61-59, in the SJC home-opener at the Harold Alfond Center on Sunday evening. Senior guard Zach O'Brien (Schenectady, N.Y.) paced all scorers with 21 points and notched six boards and four steals in the exciting win.
With the victory, the Monks claim the Costello Cup, which is named in honor of the late "Doc" Costello, former USM Athletic Director and longtime basketball coach and given annually to the winner of the SJC-USM contest. St. Joe's is now 14-9 in the history of the Costello Cup series and has possessed the Cup for four consecutive seasons, just the second four-year reign by the Royal Blue since the series began 23 years ago.
Buoyed by a trio of three-pointers – two by Chris Pagentine '12 (Lexington, N.C.) – in the opening five minutes, Southern Maine raced out to an 11-2 lead and went on to hold a 28-23 advantage heading into the break.
The SJC offense stalled in the first half as the hosts shot just 32% from the floor including a 30% performance from three-point range. The Monks were outscored by a 12-6 margin in the paint and shot just 4-10 effort from the free throw line over the opening 20 minutes.
O'Brien, who netted just one point and went 0-5 from the field in the first half, came alive in the second stanza and scored five quick points to tie the game at 28-apiece 2:40 after the break.
The second half featured seven tie scores and four lead changes and neither team would attain an advantage greater than four points.
The Monks gained their first lead of the night after Chris Petzy '12 (Kensington, N.H.) tied the contest with a layup at the 15:16 mark and Matthew Medeiros '14 (Westport, Mass.) converted a traditional three-point play to make it a 35-32 game a minute later.
The Huskies responded with a 7-0 run as Pagentine capped the surge with a jumper to lift his team to a 39-35 lead with 12:12 remaining in regulation. USM held at least a share of the lead until the Monks notched a 7-0 surge of their own five minutes later. O'Brien scored five points during the outbreak and capped the run with a fast break bucket to provide the Royal Blue with a 48-45 with 6:22 on the game clock.
St. Joe's trailed 52-50 after Conor Sullivan '14 (Scarborough, Maine) grabbed an offensive board and hit a shot under the hoop with 2:51 left, but Tom Ray '12 (Cape Elizabeth, Maine) made a pair of clutch freebies with 18 seconds left to knot the game at 52-all. USM senior forward Jeremy Jackson (Laplace, La.) had an opportunity to clinch the win in the closing seconds, but his layup – taken from directly beneath the hoop – rolled out of the basket.
O'Brien netted six of the Monks' nine overtime points and kicked off the OT period with a layup 41 seconds in. Huskies junior Alex Kee (Bath, Maine) answered with a three-pointer21 seconds later to lift his team to a 55-54 lead. As it played out, the visitors would not solely hold the lead again, as St. Joe's received three points from Petzy off a jumper and a freebie to counter a pair of Jackson layups over the following three minutes.
With the score tied at 59-59 and 18 seconds remaining, O'Brien was fouled and hit both free throws to give his team what would be the final advantage of the evening. Jackson had an opportunity to force another OT frame, but missed a close layup with three seconds left.
For St. Joe's, Medeiros netted 13 points coming off the bench, Petzy added 11 despite an 0-8 shooting performance from downtown, and Ray proved to be one of the Monks' key players by providing timely defense and contributing eight points and seven caroms in the victory.
Pagentine paced the Huskies with 17 points while Jackson notched 14 points and nine boards and John Roberts '14 (Portland, Maine/Falmouth) posted 12 points and five boards off the bench.
Saint Joseph's shot 38.2% (21-55) from the floor, 22.2% (4-18) from three-point range, and 62.5% (15-24) from the FT line. USM shot 41.1% (23-56) overall, 28.6% (4-14) from downtown, and 60% (9-15) from the charity stripe.
Southern Maine held advantages in both rebounds (38-34) and assists (13-10) while the Monks forced 16 turnovers and committed 10 miscues in the victory.
With the triumph, St. Joe's improves to 31-32 in the history of the series with University of Southern Maine.
Saint Joseph's will host Husson University on Wednesday evening at 7:30 PM, while Southern Maine resumes action on Tuesday when the Huskies play host to Bowdoin College at 7:30 PM.