STANDISH, Maine – Saint Joseph's (6-2, 2-1 GNAC) outlasted Becker College (6-5, 2-0 NECC), 73-72, in a non-conference men's basketball contest at the Harold Alfond Center on Sunday afternoon. Junior Matthew Medeiros (Westport, Mass.) paced the Monks with 23 points in the victory.
Saint Joseph's, which last played on December 8th, resumed the 2012-13 campaign with one of the most competitive contests in recent memory, as this afternoon's tilt featured 26 lead changes and 13 tie scores. Neither team held a lead of more than six points and it was not until the final minute, when Steve Simonds (Steep Falls, Maine) made all six of his free throw attempts, that the game appeared to be at hand.
Becker, a program that advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament last winter, managed to make even the closing seconds nerve-wracking for the Royal Blue faithful. Trailing 73-69 after Simonds made a pair of freebies with five seconds remaining, junior guard Mike Russell (East Hampton, N.Y.) heaved a half-court shot that banked into the basket, creating a one-point game with just 0.2 seconds left. Following a timeout, the Monks inbounded the ball with a long pass to Jerome Diggs (Centreville, Va.) beyond mid-court to seal the victory.
Becker entered the game shooting 44% from three-point distance and employed the long-distance shooting style in the first half, when the visitors parlayed a 9-19 downtown effort into a narrow 37-36 lead at the break. Junior guard Tyler Roberson (Irvington, N.J.) was 4-7 on three-point bids and led all first-half scorers with 14 points while SJC junior forward Nicholas Jobin (Westbrook, Maine) produced 10 points and five rebounds in the opening 20 minutes.
Trailing 46-43 after Lee Brockett (Waterbury, Conn.) netted a three for the visitors at the 16:24 mark of the second stanza, the Monks put forth a 7-0 surge with the help of five points from Medeiros and a Zach Blodgett (Glenburn, Maine) bucket to claim a 50-46 cushion with 13:54 to go.
The slight advantage would not last, as Donovin Ford-Hayes (Windsor Locks, Conn.) was fouled on a three-point shot and made all three freebies to lift the Hawks to a 54-52 edge two minutes later. The teams traded the lead seven times over the next six minutes, with the final lead change occurring when Jobin made a layup to put the Monks ahead 63-62 with 5:14 left. Medeiros hit a jumper and Diggs made a layup over the following two minutes to lift the hosts to a 67-62 lead, their largest cushion of the afternoon.
Saint Joseph's proceeded to hold at least a share of the lead for the remainder of the contest, but the Hawks refused to go away quietly and knotted the game at 67-apiece after Roberson converted a traditional three-point play with two minutes to play.
Forced to foul, the Hawks tagged Simonds three times in the final minute and the sophomore guard essentially clinched the victory for the Monks by making all six attempts.
For the Monks, Simonds produced the first double-double of his career with 10 points, 10 rebounds and six assists and Jobin tallied his first double-double of the year with 18 points and 10 caroms while shooting 8-9 from the field. Diggs added six points and Blodgett chipped in with five points in the victory.
For the Hawks, Roberson poured in a game-high 25 points, Brockett added 22 and Russell contributed 11 in a losing effort. The Hawks were unable to replicate their first-half three-point shooting performance, as the visitors made just three of 15 bids from downtown after the break.
Overall, Saint Joseph's shot 53.2% (25-47) from the field, 29.4% (5-17) from beyond the arc, and 90% (18-20) from the FT line. Becker countered by shooting 41.7% (25-60) from the floor, 35.3% (12-34) from downtown and 66.7% (10-15) from the charity stripe.
The Monks held advantages in rebounds (39-23) and assists (18-15) while the Hawks won the turnover battle (16-8) and grabbed eight steals, opposed to four by the hosts, in the loss.
With the win, Saint Joseph's improves to 2-1 in the history of the series with Becker College.
St. Joe's hosts WPI on Wednesday at 2:00 PM while Becker is off until January 8th when the Hawks play host to NECC rival Newbury College in an 8:00 PM tip-off.