STANDISH, ME – Senior guard Zach O'Brien (Schenectady, N.Y.) netted the game-winning shot with 1.3 seconds remaining to lift Saint Joseph's (17-6, 13-4 GNAC) past Rivier College (4-18, 2-13 GNAC), 56-54, in a Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) men's basketball game at the Alfond Center on Saturday afternoon.
In a contest that featured seven tie scores and 11 lead changes and neither team held a lead greater than seven points it was the Monks that secured the final advantage with the help of a key defensive play by senior forward Tom Ray (Cape Elizabeth, Maine) in the closing seconds. With the game tied 54-54, Rivier sophomore Jake Nelson (Nashua, N.H.) drove the lane for what was certain to be the game-winning bucket, but Ray stood his ground and took the charge, which gave the hosts the ball with 4.2 seconds on the game clock.
Trailing 12-11 after Raiders freshman Mike Colby (Londonderry, N.H.) made a three-pointer with 9:34 before the break, the Monks recorded an 8-0 run over the following four minutes to collect a 19-12 cushion. Sophomore Matthew Medeiros (Westport, Mass.) sandwiched a Nicholas Jobin '14 (Westbrook, Maine) dunk with a pair of three-pointers to account for the SJC surge that propelled the Royal Blue to what turned out to be the largest lead eight team would secure in the GNAC tilt.
Saint Joseph's held on to the lead for the remainder of the first half and carried a slim 28-27 edge heading into the locker room at halftime. Medeiros scored 15 points in the opening period while Raiders sophomore forward Tom Poitras (Bow, N.H.) tallied 13 points for the visitors over the first 20 minutes.
St. Joe's held a 35-29 lead after O'Brien made a pair of freebies 2:42 into the second stanza, but a 7-0 Rivier outbreak saw the visitors secure a 36-35 advantage minutes later. The lead then swapped hands five times over the following five minutes and neither club held a lead of more than two points until Ray capped an 8-0 run for the Monks with a jumper that gave the hosts a 49-43 lead with 6:54 to play.
The Royal Blue was unable to pull away however, as the visitors netted seven unanswered points over the following 2:15 to grab a 50-49 lead. Jobin provided the Monks with a two-point edge when he converted a traditional three-point play at the 4:21 mark.
Nelson and O'Brien traded buckets on the ensuing possessions for the conference counterparts as St. Joe's held a 54-52 lead with 2:32 remaining. Poitras knotted the contest at 54-apiece with a layup off a Colby pass with 1:05 to go before Ray and O'Brien teamed up to make clutch individual plays in the closing seconds and push the Royal Blue to victory.
Medeiros led all scorers with 24 points and made five of eight attempts from three-point distance in the SJC triumph. O'Brien added 13 points and six rebounds and Jobin netted nine points, four caroms, two steals and two assists on the afternoon.
Poitras poured in 21 and added five rebounds and three dimes and Nelson added 16 points, four assists and three steals in the loss for Rivier.
Overall, St. Joe's shot 39.6% (21-53) from the floor, 35% (7-20) from downtown, and 53.8% (7-13) from the free throw line while Rivier shot 40.8% (20-49) from the field, 44.4% (8-18) from three-point distance, and 66.7% (6-9) from the charity stripe in the conference contest.
With the win, Saint Joseph's improves to 8-3 in the history of the series with Rivier College. The Monks have now defeated the Raiders in seven consecutive meetings dating back to the 2008-09 campaign.
Prior to the start of the contest the Monks' four seniors – O'Brien, Ray, Chris Petzy (Kensington, N.H.) and Spenser Adams (North Yarmouth, Maine) – were recognized with a brief ceremony in honor of the quartet's final regular-season home contest. The senior class has helped the Monks post an impressive 77-29 (.727) record, including a 54-17 (.761) mark in conference play, with four GNAC Tournament appearances, a GNAC Championship, and a GNAC regular-season crown over the past four seasons
St. Joe's will play a non-conference contest at Bates College on Tuesday night at 7:00 PM while Rivier hosts GNAC rival Emerson College on Tuesday in a 7:00 PM tip-off.
Saint Joseph's College, founded in 1912 by the Sisters of Mercy, celebrates its Centennial year in 2012 with a theme of "Realize the Promise" – honoring our commitment to educating well-rounded graduates who combine career focus with classic liberal arts studies. A Private, Catholic, primarily residential, coeducational liberal arts institution, Saint Joseph's welcomes students of all ages and all faiths. The campus, located 18 miles northwest of Portland and just two hours from Boston, encompasses 350 acres along the shore of beautiful Sebago Lake in Standish, Maine. Enrollment ranges between 1,000 and 1,100 students annually. Saint Joseph's offers challenging academic programs in the liberal arts and sciences, education, nursing and business fields in a value-centered environment.