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Saint Francis

Struggling Flash on verge of NEC tourney elimination

Photo by Saint Francis University: Men's basketball coach Rob Krimmel

A season that began with so much promise for Saint Francis is now almost certain to end in the disappointment of not qualifying for the Northeast Conference Tournament.

The Red Flash lost for a second day in a row at Merrimack on Friday, 59-54, coming on the heels of a 68-62 loss Thursday. Saint Francis (5-12 overall) is in last place in the NEC with a 4-9 record with five games to go, and with only four of the league’s 10 teams making the conference tournament, SFU would seem to be all but finished.

The lone saving grace from this two-game road trip is that the Flash nearly pulled off a miracle comeback Friday. They trailed by as many as 15 points and were down 54-43 with 2 minutes left, only to fight back and have a chance to tie with the ball inside of 15 seconds.

Down 57-54, SFU got the ball after a missed free throw and needed a 3 to tie. But point guard Ramiir Dixon-Conover had some miscommunication and threw away a pass for a turnover with 9 seconds to go, and Merrimack hit two free throws to seal it.

Coach Rob Krimmel has done great work at Saint Francis, leading the program to winning records in each of the past three seasons and only one sub-.500 record in the past six years.

But the primary players on all of those previous winning teams are now gone — guys such as Keith Braxton, Isaiah Blackmon, Jamaal King, Ronnie Drinnon and Earl Brown — and this group of SFU players still just has not learned how to play well enough for 40 minutes night in and night out to win games.

Krimmel was asked after the game how he’s going to be able to turn things around and get back to winning ways starting next year, as opposed to having this season be the start of a bad stretch for the program.

“As a staff we’ve got to continue to hold these guys accountable,” Krimmel said. “We’ve got to continue to develop these kids. That’s the thing, and that’s what we’ve always done.

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“It’s easy to do it in success, but I think when these moments come up, these these kids that that haven’t been in this situation, we’ve got to continue to develop them. We’ve got to continue to get them to get better both on the court basketball-wise, in the weight room, in the classroom, and that development that’s been such a big part of our program is let them see that progress.

“Sometimes that growth is in a losing season or in a loss, but it’s keeping them engaged and keeping them focused on, hey, what’s the next task. Trying to get ahead of yourself in a normal year is not a good deal. But in this year, we got to make sure that we stay day to day, we got to make sure that we continue to bring these guys (along).”

Dixon-Conover led Saint Francis with 14 points, while Ronell Giles Jr. had 11 off the bench.

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Cory Giger is a 15-year veteran of the Penn State beat and a journalist with 28 years of experience. He has won more than 100 state and national journalism awards during his career, plus he's a voter for the Heisman Trophy in football and Wooden Award in basketball.

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