Emmitsburg, Md. (March 7, 2017) – Mount St. Mary's University topped Saint Francis U, 71-61, on Tuesday night in the Northeast Conference Championship game to claim its fifth league title in program history and earn a berth in the NCAA Tournament. The contest marked the first-ever NEC Championship game hosted at Knott Arena. With the victory, the Mountaineers improved to 5-2 all-time in the title game since joining the conference prior to the 1989-90 season.
Head Coach Jamion Christian has now led the Mount to a pair of NEC titles during his five seasons at the helm, and three championship game appearances overall.
"You play this game, it is very emotional. You got a great crowd, you are playing for everything you have been working for your entire life," said Christian. "The guys were so emotional ... it's just about trying to settle down emotionally and understand the highs and the lows."
"I just love to compete, I love being down eight at the half with these guys, you know, that's just me," continued Christian. "I just love competing, you can ask these guys, that's what I told them. They're going to score and we are going to score again. Down eight, you got great guys with you, I just felt like we were at a good place, we still had time to go."
Elijah Long, the NEC Tournament MVP, led all scorers in the contest with 24 points on 9-of-19 shooting to go along with nine rebounds, finishing just one board shy of a double-double. Junior Robinson, who was named to the All-Tournament Team alongside Long, added 22 points, including 18 in the second half, as the Mount's starting backcourt combined for 46 points. Robinson went 11-of-13 from the line to register a career-high in free throws made.
Freshman Miles Wilson recorded 15 points, with 12 of those coming in the second half, and also added 10 rebounds to collect the first double-double of his career. Wilson became the first freshman in 20 years to post a double-double in an NEC Championship game.
Chris Wray was the other Mountaineer to reach double-figures in the contest, tallying 10 points and seven rebounds.
The Mount defense stymied Saint Francis U in the opening eight minutes of the contest, holding the Red Flash to just three field goals while building up a nine-point lead. With the game tied at 6-6 early, the Mount went on an 11-2 run to open a 17-8 advantage, fueled by six points from Long.
Trailing 19-9 with 8:51 to play in the first half, Saint Francis U stormed back with a 20-2 run over the ensuing six-plus minutes to grab its largest lead of the contest, 29-21. Josh Nebo started the rally with a jumper, before Jamaal King scored seven straight to cut the Mount lead to just one.
The Mount's lone basket during the Red Flash run was a layup from Long that pushed the Mount's advantage back to three, before SFU responded with 11 straight, receiving buckets from five different players during the stretch, to take an eight-point advantage.
Long hit a jumper with 1:34 left in the period to break up the run of 11 straight from the Red Flash, but Georgios Angelou converted a layup to close out the half, sending SFU into the break with a 31-23 lead.
The Mount came out hot in the second half, scoring the opening eight points of the frame to tie things up at 31-all. Robinson scored the first six points of the period for the Mount, and Long followed with the team's first three-pointer of the contest at the 17:35 mark to even the tilt.
The Mountaineers pushed their advantage to six, 40-34, over the ensuing four minutes of play behind back-to-back three-pointers from Wilson, and padded their lead to double-digits two minutes later for the first time since the early stages of the tilt.
The Red Flash scored five straight just under the 10-minute mark as Randall Gaskins Jr. converted a layup in transition and Isaiah Blackmon knocked down a three-pointer to cut their deficit back to single-digits, 49-40.
With the Mount still holding a nine-point lead, 51-42, with 7:05 showing on the clock, Robinson was fouled attempting a three, and the 87.5 percent free throw shooter knocked down all three to push the advantage to 12. Wilson hit a pair from the line on the team's next possession to pad the lead to 56-42 with 5:44 to play.
A pair of layups from Wray and a bucket from Wilson over the next three minutes gave the Mount its largest lead of the contest, 62-46, with just 2:23 left in the contest.
Saint Francis U wasn't able to trim the deficit back to single-digits in the final minutes as the Mount went 9-of-10 from the free throw line down the stretch to close out the 71-61 victory and claim its fifth Northeast Conference title.
The Mountaineers shot 38.7 percent from the floor, but registered a 53.8 percent mark in the second half, including 41.7 percent from long range as they scored 48 of their 71 points in the period.
Saint Francis U shot 41.4 percent in the contest and 31.6 percent from three-point land. Blackmon paced SFU with a team-high 17 points as he knocked down a trio of three-pointers to go along with nine rebounds. Nebo collected a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds, and King (11 pts) and Angelou (10) also registered double-figure nights.
Mount St. Mary's is set for its fifth appearance in the NCAA Tournament in its Division I history, and first since 2014. The Mount will find out its opponent for the NCAA Tournament on Selection Sunday (March 12).
Northeast Conference All-Tournament Team
Elijah Long (Tournament MVP) – Mount St. Mary's
Junior Robinson – Mount St. Mary's
Josh Nebo – Saint Francis U
Keith Braxton – Saint Francis U
Michael Carey - Wagner