By MARK LINDSLEY
(BROOKLYN, N.Y.) – On March 3, the Knights played on the road against the LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds at the Steinberg Center in the semi- final game of the NEC Men’s Basketball Tournament. The Knights lost 78-77, coming up just short of the NEC Championship game.
“It’s just a hard way to end,” Head Coach Greg Herenda said in the post- game press conference. “But we have our entire team coming back. Our program is in a position now to win championships, so that is the bar we’ve set.”
Although the game was played in Brooklyn, the FDU supporters provided a majority of the noise for most of the game. When the game got close at the end, the LIU supporters took over and cheered their team to victory.
The Knights got off to a slow start, allowing the Blackbirds to get out to a 16-6 lead before they took over the game. With a huge 29-5 run, the Knights took a 14-point lead, bringing the score to 35-21 before the Blackbirds began their comeback.
With 12:43 left in the game, the Blackbirds took the lead again and then stretched their lead to seven points a few minutes later. Undeterred, the Knights fought back and tied the game at 71 with 2:48 remaining.
After a Darnell Edge jumper and two Kaleb Bishop free throws, the Knights had a four-point lead. But the Blackbirds came back, tying the score at 76.
With 49 seconds left in the game, Holloway Jr. got a dominant rebound over three Blackbirds and was fouled. He yelled and high- fived every player on the Knights bench. Going to the line, he only made one of two.
After the Blackbirds missed a three-pointer, Bishop grabbed his 22nd rebound of the game, breaking a Fairleigh Dickinson University record and tying an NEC Tournament record. He eventually got the ball back on the other end of the court and was fouled with nine seconds left.
Bishop missed both of his free throws, keeping the Knights lead at one, and Blackbirds Forward Julius
van Sauers grabbed the rebound and threw the ball ahead. Blackbirds guard Jashaun Agosto caught Sauers’ pass and drove the ball right to the rim before missing, but was fouled by Holloway Jr.
Agosto made both of his free throws to give the Blackbirds a one-point lead with three seconds left. The Knights immediately called a timeout and drew up a play to try and get to the basket and win the game before time expired.
We were trying to get the ball deeper and make a play to the basket,” Coach Herenda said, “but they made a good play to not let us get the ball all the way down the floor.”
The result was a Noah Morgan half-court prayer that went unanswered as the final buzzer sounded and the LIU fans erupted.
“Kaleb Bishop missed those two free throws and that’s the elephant in the room,” Coach Herenda said, “but I don’t think the kid had an ounce of energy. I mean, he had 22 rebounds, 19 points, and he was guarding Clark, he was guarding Hernandez and he’s a sophomore.”
Hernandez had 25 points, three rebounds and three assists, while Clark had 28 points, seven rebounds, three assists and three steals. While it was an outstanding performance for the two Blackbirds, it wasn’t unexpected, since they combined to score almost half of their team’s points this season.
“They’ve just got two guys that are monsters.” Coach Herenda said. “We tried to, for our terminology, cut both of the guys in half, Clark and Hernandez, and you just couldn’t.”