The 21-year drought is over! For just the second time in school history, the Mountaineers (16-15) have won the 2017 Northeast Conference regular season title with a 14-4 NEC record. They have also clinched the No. 1 seed heading into the 2017 NEC Basketball tournament. They will play No. 8 Sacred Heart University (13-18) in the quarterfinals at home.
En route to their big victory, the Mountaineers took a 62-58 loss earlier in the week to No. 2 LIU Brooklyn (20-11). Before the game, junior guard, Junior Robinson was recognized for reaching 1000 career points with the Mount. He is the 49th player in Mount history to do so.
The Mountaineers went on a 12-2 run, 5 minutes into the game, but the Blackbirds soon found their drive and closed out the half, down 26-25.
In the second half, it was neck and neck, as the Mount could not break away from LIU. With just 3:51 left to go, LIU jumped ahead of the Mount, 53-52, for just it’s second lead of the game.
With 10 seconds left, Robinson made half of his free throws to cut the deficit to 3. However, foul shots, allowed LIU to jump back up, 60-55. Then, in a rush to score, junior guard, Greg Alexander, shot from behind the arc, to make it 60-58, but it would not be enough as LIU would go on to make 2 free throws to put the game away for good.
With one last stand at home in regular season play and the top seed at the NEC tournament at stake, the Mount pulled off a convincing 77-62 win against No. 10 St. Francis Brooklyn (4-27). Coming into this game, St. Francis was on a 15-game losing streak.
After what seemed to be an explosive start for the Mount on Senior Recognition Day, St. Francis soon caught up. A 10-4 lead for the Mount, soon turned into a 28-21 deficit as the offense became dormant. The Mount ended the half, down 35-33, only making two of their 10, 3-point attempts.
The second half is when Knott Arena erupted with emotion. Approximately four minutes into the second half, with the Mount leading 38-37, a technical foul was called on Head coach, Jamion Christian.
Christian stuck up for his player’s safety by arguing with a referee about a possible flagrant foul against St. Francis, when one of their players and sophomore guard, Elijah Long, were fighting for the ball and Long ended up hitting the stanchion.
“I want these guys to know that I’m there for them. I’m just not going to let [players] come in and foul our guys like that,” Christian explained. “There is a way you foul in basketball that’s clean [and] they were on that borderline for too many fouls in a row.”
After, St. Francis missed its free throw, the arena was filled with cheers. The Mountaineers, then went on a 24-2 run, seemingly telling St. Francis, not to mess with the Mount or you’ll experience Mount Mayhem.
“If you see your coach fighting for you like that, [then] why aren’t you going to fight for him? We [saw] that and bunkered in and went at them,” Long stated.
With the Mount, up 75-56 and 1:41 away from ending their 21-year title drought, both teams substituted in their remaining bench players. After a couple of fouls by both teams, the game was decided.
Afterwards, Coach Christian stated, “When these guys commit here, we talk about giving them a unique experience; something that not everyone gets to experience and we are starting to enter that phase. I’m really pleased for our team. To be a regular season champ, that means you’ve played well for two straight months and that’s really hard to do. We’re really excited about this milestone.”