St. Francis University sophomore Greg Brown took just one shot from the floor during Monday’s men’s basketball game at Cambria County War Memorial Arena.
His attempt in the paint with :56 seconds drew contact, allowing him to convert a three-point play.
Just as Brown had made the most of that chance, so did the Red Flash as they topped the U.S. Naval Academy, 60-57.
“When I got the ball, I went in and tried to avoid the charge,” Brown said. “The first couple of options broke down. That’s why I’m here, to be another option on the court.”
The game was brought to Johnstown thanks to a partnership between the school and all involved with the arena. The announced crowd of 2,838 gave the Red Flash a home feel despite being 29 miles away from home.
“The War Memorial did a great job putting on a great show,” St. Francis coach Rob Krimmel said. “Give credit to Navy. Those kids play so hard and execute so well.”
The night was also big for the community, which tied the game in with various Veterans Day events around the city.
“It meant a lot to the county and to the veterans and to the whole community,” Cambria County Commissioner Tom Chernisky said. “It was a win-win for St. Francis University, the county and the region. It’s a destination game. You have Division I basketball in Loretto and this is a way to showcase the War Memorial and play a game on that wooden floor ... It was a lot of people working together and getting things done. It shows the strength in our community that people do work together.”
While the Midshipmen (0-2) held the game’s longest lead – 40-34 early in the second half on two Will Kelly free throws – their inconsistency in shooting the ball and holding onto it allowed the Red Flash to rally back quickly.
“Credit to St. Francis, they made the big plays when they needed to,” Navy coach Ed DeChellis said. “I thought we had our chances. We had the ball and the lead. Had three straight 3s go in and out with a four-point lead. If one of those shots go, it may be a different game, but we can’t turn the ball over 17 times. That’s terrible.”
Earl Brown’s layup completed a 7-0 rally for the Red Flash to regain the lead just before Kelly – a 6-foot-9 forward – replied with a close-range bucket of his own to push Navy ahead. From there, neither team held a lead larger than three points during a run of three lead changes in the remaining 10:36.
“They really threw a punch to start the second half,” Krimmel said. “But I was proud of the way our guys responded to a slow start in the second half. It was a great team win. We did a good job attacking and driving the basketball. Didn’t make some shots that we normally make, but those will start to fall.”
Ronnie Drinnon’s lay-in off an assist from Stephon Whyatt gave St. Francis a 57-55 lead with just over 2 minutes remaining. A baby hook from Kelly knotted the score at 57 with 1:11 to go, triggering the chain of events that led to a Red Flash timeout and then Greg Brown’s go-ahead bucket.
While Greg Brown wasn’t the first option, his presence on the floor indicated that he was an option.
“If I remember, (Navy) came out in a zone (after the timeout),” Krimmel said. “Credit to Malik (Harmon), he made that play. We’ve asked Greg to do some different things from last year. When the ball comes to him, we’ve asked him to attack on closeouts and be a driver and attack the rim. He responded at that moment.”
St. Francis’ Malik Harmon scored a game-high 20 points while dishing out five assists. Earl Brown, who also had a team-leading nine boards, followed with 11 points as Drinnon chipped in 10 points.
Worth Smith’s 16 points led Navy, which received 12 points and 10 rebounds from Kelly and 11 points from Brandon Venturini.
Venturini, who was responsible for the last-second miss from just inside the 3-point line, opened the scoring with two straight buckets as Navy staked out to a 4-0 lead. Stephon Mosley and Harmon replied with field goals to initiate the back-and-forth theme that the game followed.