Men’s Basketball Headed to NEC Championship Game

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Courtesy of Saint Francis Athletics Communications:

The men’s basketball team will make its third Northeast Conference Championship appearance in the last four seasons after taking down Sacred Heart, 84-72, in Saturday’s NEC semifinal game at the Stokes Center.

Northeast Conference Player-of-the-Year Isaiah Blackmon poured in a team-high 24 points with eight rebounds and senior Keith Braxton added 18 and five rebounds.

The Red Flash (22-9) will head to Robert Morris for Tuesday’s NEC Championship Game, which will be televised on ESPN2 at 7 p.m.

“This time of year, there are a couple things that seem to separate teams,” said SFU head coach Rob Krimmel. “One is being able to play with a level head, and then also having that desire to win.

“I think for the better part of 40 minutes, our guys did that, and they were able to compete and execute, and take care of the basketball and get a great shot. Those are the things that you learn with experience and this group has been through so many difference scenarios that it is starting to show.”

The Red Flash and Pioneers traded buckets for much of the early going as Saint Francis led 24-23 with 6:12 to play in the first half. That’s when Braxton started to take over, scoring eight of his 14 first half points over the final six minutes. His bucket at the end of the half extended SFU’s lead to 43-30.

If it was Braxton’s effort which helped Saint Francis grab the first half lead, it was Blackmon who brought it home. He drilled a three-pointer on the first possession of the second half, his first of three in the second half, as the NEC Player-of-the-Year was off and running.

Sacred Heart trimmed it to 52-40 with 15:12 remaining, but a 10-4 run from the Red Flash, capped by a layup from senior Randall Gaskins Jr., made it 62-44 and brought the home crowd to its feet.

The Pioneers made one final push, making it a 10-point game with 1:26 left, but Braxton closed it out at the free throw line down the stretch by making all four of his attempts from the stripe.

SFU’s championship team of 1990-91 entered the NEC title game with 22 wins, just like this current group of 2019-20. The Red Flash went on to win the NEC Championship in 1990-91 and then defeat Fordham in a play-in game to get into the field of 64.