By Tommy Liljedahl
After losses of several tight games this season, Central Connecticut was finally able to pull out a victory in a hard fought affair at home versus St. Francis of New York, 72-70.
“Not a great game for any coach with a heart problem, but feels good to be on the winning end this time,” joked Head Coach Howie Dickenman following the game.
The Blue Devils persevered through balance, with five of seven players scoring in double figures. They came out playing hard, playing enthusiastically, and playing for each other. This was particularly apparent when they swung the ball around the perimeter, making several extra passes which lead to one of Adonis Burbage’s three three pointers, and gave CCSU a 19-14 lead.
However, with 11 lead changes and eight ties, this was only one of many surges for momentum. St. Francis came back with one of their own to finish the half, as P.J. Santavenere nailed a triple on the final possession, making it 38-35.
Both teams came out firing in the second half, trading threes. Aleksandar Isailovic hit two consecutive, despite going just three of eight for the game. This sparked a St. Francis run that propelled them to their first lead since the first half. Jalen Cannon, who led the Terriers with eighteen points, had a nifty move to the basket which resulted in a three-point play and a 51-47 lead.
Central fought back and Detrick Gym erupted when Matt Hunter, who went just one of four from behind the arc, knocked down a huge three and got knocked down in the process, giving him a four-point play opportunity. He hit the free throw to make it a one point game. On the following possession, Kyle Vinales, who led the Blue Devils with nineteen points, hit another three to knot the game yet again at 58.
From then on, Central Connecticut’s defensive intensity increased as they recorded several consecutive stops on a 5-0 run. Burbage, who had been challenged before the game, pulled down several of his eleven critical rebounds.
“With Brandon (Peel) out, we had to pick up the slack in the rebounding department,” Said Coach Dickenman, “I challenged Adonis during the week and he really responded.”
Despite the forward Peel’s absence, averaging nearly six rebounds per game, CCSU outrebounded St. Francis 54-41.
In the final seconds, the game was still in question, however, as St. Francis came down the court trailing by two, with a chance to win or send it to overtime. The shot they got was a last second three by Brent Jones.
“I held my breath watching that ball go through the air,” said Terrell Allen after the game, “I thought it was on line.”
Fortunately for Central Connecticut, the three pointer missed, capping off a grueling 70-72 victory.
“It feels good to pull one out down the stretch, hopefully it’s a spark,” Said Adonis Burbage.
“Somehow, someway, we got tougher since last week,” said Coach Dickenman proudly.
Dickenman stressed the importance of the upcoming games, as Central sits at 4-4 in the NEC, deadlocked in sixth place with St. Francis and Quinnipiac. He also stated that there was a fifty-fifty chance for Brandon Peel’s return on Thursday, when the Blue Devils travel to play Monmouth.