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The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Fit to be king
Lilli Dellheim, Special to the Hawk • July 13, 2024

One game short of championship berth

Demery and Newkirk speak after beating George Mason (Photos courtesy of Mitchell Leff).

St. Joe’s stumbles in the semifinals of the A-10 Tournament

The St. Joe’s men’s basketball team concluded their Atlantic 10 Championship run with a 90-87 loss in the semifinals against Rhode Island University on March 10. One day prior to this game, the Hawks took down George Mason University 68-47 in the quarterfinals.

St. Joe’s got off to a sloppy start against George Mason. Senior forward James Demery did not start; after being injured for two of the last five regular season games, he has yet to make his way back into the starting lineup. Head coach Phil Martelli said that Demery is more effective off the bench.

“Early on, when he was starting, he was playing too many minutes,” Martelli said. “I wanted James to be the best sixth man in the country. Not in the league, in the country. With fewer minutes, he can be more effective.”

Sophomore guard Nick Robinson attributed St. Joe’s first half struggles to a lack of ball movement.

“Our offense was really stagnant,” Robinson said. “We knew if we started moving the ball we would be fine. Once we focused, it showed.”

After concluding the first half with only a one point lead at 26-25, the Hawks quickly extended. At the twelve minute mark, St. Joe’s was up by 10 points. Three minutes later, their lead increased to 16.

George Mason made a late game charge to get to within 9 points. However, the Hawks regained focus and finished the game with their largest lead at 68-49.

After suffering two regular season losses to George Mason off buzzer beaters, St. Joe’s finally got the job done. Senior guard Shavar Newkirk said they weren’t worried about vengeance.

“We were focused on this game,” Newkirk said. “We weren’t worried about vengeance. We just try to play one game at a time.”

Ball movement was key for St. Joe’s in the second half. Robinson said they’re a good team if they move the ball.

“Every possession matters,” Robinson said. “If we come out and move the ball, we’re a really good team.”

The Hawks took control of the first half in the semifinals against Rhode Island. Efficient ball movement allowed players to take advantage of open looks. Freshman forward Anthony Longpre drained a few early threes to help give them a 26-17 lead at half.

St. Joe’s continued their strong play early in the second half. They led by as much as 11 points. However, their zone defense did not hold up. Rhode Island drained threes from what seemed to be every aspect of the arc. They took the lead at the five minute mark.

Earlier in the game, Newkirk limped off the court with a foot injury, from which he quickly returned. At the two minute mark, he tweaked it again and subsequently did not get cleared to return.  The Hawks weren’t able to utilize his speed in the closing minutes, according to Martelli.

“We weren’t able to use his straightaway speed,” Martelli said. “He gave us everything that he had.”

St. Joe’s was down by five with nine seconds left. Robinson made a deep three to get them within two with three seconds left. After Rhode Island made one of two free throws, St. Joe’s turned the ball over and the clock ran out.

Despite major hits to the roster, Robinson said that the Hawks fought hard to get to where they are.

“We have a never quit attitude,” Robinson said. “It showed toward the end of the season. Our record wasn’t what it should have been because we didn’t finish games. We just never quit.”

Martelli said that he was surprised at how well his team managed the situation.

“It shocked me  how well they handled it,” Martelli said. “It took a very long time. We went back to the idea that this is the day, let’s be a championship team. They put their heads down and never overreacted.”

As for Newkirk and Demery, they played their last game for the Hawks against Rhode Island. St. Joe’s won’t play in any postseason tournament. Even if invited to the College Basketball Invitational or the Postseason Tournament, they will not play.

Next season, St. Joe’s will have a much healthier roster with sophomore guard Charlie Brown and junior guard Lamarr Kimble both looking to make their mark.

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