This has been a tough rebuilding year for Saint Francis, one with a lot of painful lessons. A perennial contender in the Northeast Conference the past half decade, the Red Flash have dropped six of their last seven to plummet to 5-12 in the league and 6-15 overall. They have one game left to play Thursday at home against Mount St. Mary’s.
That stunning win over Pitt to start the season? Long forgotten.
What’s happened since then has been very forgettable from a results standpoint. But the results don’t tell the entire story with this young team.
The past two days at Wagner showed what the team is capable of, both from a good and bad standpoint.
Saturday night, Saint Francis was awful. The Flash shot 12 percent for the half, an embarrassing 3-for-25, and lost 67-52.
Sunday afternoon was a completely different story. SFU was on fire in the first half, shooting 69.6 percent (16-for-23) and led 38-32 at the half.
The hot shooting continued early in the second half, and the Flash were up 48-38 with 15:56 to go.
But Wagner is the best team in the NEC. And of course, the Seahawks roared back for a 70-68 win, their ninth straight victory.
It was a great, back-and-forth game for the final 10 minutes, and the Flash had a chance to win. They played well enough and made some clutch buckets to keep see-sawing back and forth.
Then, in crunch time, Saint Francis wilted. Its defense collapsed in some key sequences, allowing several easy baskets. And in one particularly embarrassing situation, the Flash had no idea that the shot clock was winding down, as point guard Ramiir Dixon-Conover was standing near midcourt dribbling when the clock hit zero.
Dixon-Conover is a senior. That just cannot happen.
The Flash nearly pulled off a huge road win despite playing without starters Maxwell Land (injured) and Bryce Laskey (coach decision), so that says a lot about the rest of the players.
Still, the game was there to be won, and the Flash didn’t execute down the stretch.
“One of the things that we struggle with is the attention to detail, and that falls on me as the head coach,” Rob Krimmel said after the game. “I gotta make sure that I do a better job in practice and and putting themselves in those situations. And then at the same time when we draw something up out of a timeout, they’ve got to execute it. So it’s a shared thing. It’s a coach-player relationship, it’s a coach-player situation.”
Krimmel went on to add, “Something we got to build on and something we got to learn from, and the more experiences we have like this, eventually we’ll get it right.:
There is hope for this Saint Francis team next year. It should have everyone back — few players have ever transferred from SFU, although that could be put to the test this offseason with new NCAA transfer rules — and the solid nucleus should improve enough to get back into the heart of the NEC race.
“The one thing is what you said it’s promising, because you’re close, but it’s equally as frustrating,” Krimmel said of losing so many tough games. “The fine line between winning and losing, I mean it’s just so small, but the gap in emotion is extremely wide. It comes down to execution and guys being in positions.
“In the past we’ve had a couple guys that can make that last-second play late game — Keith (Braxton) and Isaiah (Blackmon), Jamaal (King) — guys that have relished in that role. And we’re still searching for that. Ramiir certainly has been that guy for us, but he can’t be the only guy every single night, and so it’s kind of going back and forth. I think that’s been our biggest challenge is making sure that when they take Ramiir out of it, who’s that next man up?”
Krimmel finished by saying this, which is the challenge all the players in the program will have to understand this offseason and going into next year.
“Its time to get these guys to understand how to take that next step, so that when they get their opportunity, they’re successful with it. I’m looking forward to that.”