Courtside Observations: FDU 55 St.Francis Brooklyn 51

Teaneck, NJ - The first four minutes of each half are universally decreed by the coaches as crucial. Whether it’s the first four of the first or second half is up to debate. What is agreed is that getting a good start to open both halves is vital.

St. Francis Brooklyn visited FDU for a Northeast Conference contest on Thursday. The halftime score saw visiting St. Francis take a 30-29 lead into the locker room. The first four minutes of the final half saw four points scored. That’s four for both teams combined as St. Francis held a 32-31 lead at the six minute mark of the third period.

About the only thing those ‘first four’ told us was this would be a down to the wire decision between two evenly matched teams.

As it played out the game did go to the final seconds. In fact the last minute rendered the result. Who would best execute in those last seconds would earn the victory. With 34 seconds remaining FDU held a 54-51 lead. Nevena Dimitrijevc of St. Francis attempted a contested long three pointer. The shot missed. In the rebounding scramble FDU secured possession then called timeout with ten seconds remaining. Following the timeout the ball went into FDU’s Madison Stanley who was fouled. With St. Francis over the limit Stanley had two free throws-missing the first and hitting the second. St. Francis then pushed the ball upcourt and launched a long desperation three, that was defended but not too close in order to prevent fouling, that hit the backboard as time expired. Game over- FDU 55 St. Francis 51.
Post game FDU coach Ang Szumilo was asked if she planned to foul St. Francis with a three point lead and half a minute remaining. "Fouling is an option," Szumilo admitted, "but we defended, we trust our defense in that situation."

FDU trailed by double digits in the second half before making a late run to cut the deficit to one at intermission. "At the half we talked about grit and toughness," Szumilo said. "We had to settle down on offense , cut down on turnovers and clean up a few things on defense, we had to get stops."

The stops came in the final twenty minutes. St. Francis shot 7 of 23 (30%) over than juncture. The Terriers were limited to seven fourth quarter points. Those final ten minutes saw FDU reverse a three point deficit and ultimately earn the victory.

FDU’s second leading scorer Chloe Wilson (13.3 ppg) missed the game due to COVID protocol. Rachel Niles, stepped up leading all scorers with 20 points. Niles, a senior guard, knocked down four three pointers and at 5’3" grabbed six rebounds. If had a game MVP it would have been Niles. "Without a doubt," Szumilo agreed. "She (Niles) was huge. She had a great practice yesterday and had that same energy tonight. As a team we rely on more than one player."

Stanley added 18 points and 8 boards for the Knights. The graduate forward came up big in the stretch. "She (Madison) is unselfish to a fault," Szumilo said. "We tell her if you are double teamed, pass out of that. If you are defended one on one down low make a move. Aniya Bell led the Knights with 10 rebounds. Sierra DeAngelo scored seven points but came up with two key field goals, one from beyond the arc, in that final stanza.

St. Francis was paced by Dimitrijevic and Ally Lassen with 11 points each. Dimitrijevic also added a game high eight assists.

The win, FDU’s seventh straight, keeps the Knights on top of the Northeast Conference at 10-1 (13-8 overall). St. Francis is in second at 7-4 (11-8). FDU swept the season series over the Terriers with both games close and hotly contested.

Szumilo was told St. Francis coach Linda Cimino remarked she hopes to see FDU again, meaning in the NEC tournament-with a possible title on the line. The FDU coach agreed saying, "it’s something that could possibly happen.

Szumilo 'debated' a no-call in the third period and was assessed a technical foul It was only her second in her three years at FDU. The other ironically came in late January's win at St. Francis. "I never curse," she said. "I may curse when my players get me upset but I never curse at officials."

Speaking of officials...NEC Supervisor of Officials Jon Levinson was courtside evaluating his crew.