QUINCY, Mass.—The St. Joseph's College (Brooklyn) men's basketball team rode a second-half surge to overcome a slow start and narrowly defeat University of Maine-Presque Isle, 61-60, in a thrilling comeback effort in the opening round of the Eastern Nazarene College Basketball Classic on Friday evening.
The Bears advance to face hosts Eastern Nazarene for the tournament championship tomorrow at 3 p.m.
St. Joseph's extended their perfect start and reached 4-0 for the first time in the Joseph Cocozello era thanks to the fourth consecutive double-double performances from senior David Louison (Brooklyn, N.Y./St. Edmund Prep) and junior Michael Megafu (Jamaica, N.Y./Nazareth Regional).
Megafu led the Bears in scoring for the third straight game, securing 18 points and pulling down 13 rebounds. Louison grabbed a season- and game-high 16 boards and added 10 points. The duo combined for 15 of the Bears 25 offensive rebounds that led to a 26-15 edge in second chance scoring.
Vernon Maddox (Staten Island, N.Y./St. Peter's) pitched in with 10 points with another solid performance at the stripe going 8-for-10. The senior guard added three assists and two thefts. Junior Matt O'Neill (Brooklyn, N.Y./St. Edmund Prep) went 2-for-5 from beyond the arc, finishing with eight points, four boards, four assists and two steals.
Kevin Collins led the way for UMPI (3-1), draining 3-8 from downtown on his way to a game-high 22 points as the Owls suffered their first loss of the season.
The game was tight from start to finish as neither team was able to separate themselves by more than eight points. The Owls controlled the first half, holding the Bears to just five made field goals on 17.2 percent shooting to enter the break leading 25-19.
The Bears secured their first lead of the game with 14:45 remaining after a Matt O'Neill trifecta put St. Joseph's up 30-29. Presque Isle would quickly regain the advantage, going on a 7-0 run to secure a 36-30 lead with 12:54 to play.
But after falling behind 45-40 with just over eight minutes to play, the Bears would answer with their own flurry, going on a furious 13-0 run in a span of 3:34. David Louison's layup at the 4:08 mark capped off the run and gave St. Joseph's a 53-45 lead.
St. Joseph's held a seemingly comfortable seven-point lead, 58-51, after a pair of Maddox free throws with 36 seconds left, but the Owls wouldn't go down quietly, knocking down three of three trifectas, the last at the buzzer from half court to cut the final deficit to one.
The Bears escaped with a win despite a poor shooting night, connecting on just 24.6 percent (16-65), plagued by their slow first half start. The Bears also won the turnover battle (15-8) doubling up the Owls in points off turnovers, 16-8, and controlled the glass holding a 54-39 rebounding edge.
Host Eastern Nazarene defeated Green Mountain College in 91-62 in the other opening round match to setup the championship against the Bears. Live stats and video for both games can be found on SJCBears.com with a 3 p.m. tip-off.