Following a 13-win season in 2014-2015, expectations were low for the Hawks. That is, with everyone except themselves. With a lineup largely the same as a season ago, the Hawks came together, determined to turn heads.
They would do just that.
Behind Atlantic 10 Player of the Year DeAndre’ Bembry and A-10 Most Improved Player Isaiah Miles, the Hawks improved by 15 wins, earning a matchup with #1 seed Oregon in the round of 32 on Sunday night.
After battling through early foul trouble and some suspect calls, Saint Joseph’s strung together a 15-4 run midway through the second half to take its first lead of the game with 8:11 remaining. The Hawks would continue their frenzy, building a lead as large as seven and putting Oregon on the ropes.
In the end, however, the Ducks strung together a few solid plays down the stretch to eek out a 69-64 win over the Hawks. While the season may have come to a close for Saint Joseph’s, the Hawks left Spokane with nothing to hang their heads about.
“They came into this building as champions, they're going to leave as champions, and I've been honored to work with each of them since August,” Saint Joseph’s Coach Phil Martelli said. “And that doesn't change, the result tonight doesn't change that. We wish Oregon well going forward and hope that we'll be watching them advance to Houston.”
Despite having just about everything go wrong that could for them, the Hawks battled back over the final minutes of the second half, cutting the Oregon lead to just 32-27 at the break.
Saint Joseph’s would come out of the break looking like a different team than the one who played in the first half. The Hawks quickly cut the Oregon lead to just two, but the Ducks maintained their poise, responding with a 13-5 run to again stretch their lead to double digits.
Bembry would begin to find his offensive stroke, however, and the Hawks strung together a 12-2 run to tie the game at 47-47.
From there, Bembry and Lamarr Kimble continued to fuel the Hawks’ run, allowing them to open up a seven-point lead with 5:32 remaining.
A few costly turnovers and fouls late in the game would cost the Hawks, however, as Oregon survived with a 69-64 win to advance to the Sweet 16.
“My teammates left it out there, all of us, from the last guy on the bench to the first guy in the game playing the longest minutes,” Aaron Brown said. “Everybody left it out there. I can’t say anything bad about anyone because everyone left it out there. Everybody played hard.”
Bembry led the way for the Hawks, recording 16 points – 14 in the second half – 12 rebounds, three assists and two steals. Saint Joseph’s also received double-digit scoring efforts from Kimble, Shavar Newkirk and Aaron Brown, who scored 11, 10 and 10 points, respectively, but it would not be enough for the Hawks to continue their fairytale season.
“We were there, by the skin of our teeth we almost were able to pull out a victory against a very good team,” Kimble said. “But the chips didn't fall our way this time, and we are still together as a team.”
While the chips didn’t fall in Saint Joseph’s favor on this night and the Hawks’ season came to an end, the special bond among the players is evident by the way they speak about each other. The chemistry the team displayed all season was special. And the memories they made can never be taken away.
“I’m proud of how we fought and we fought really well,” Miles said. “It didn’t work out in our favor, eight turnovers, and they got some three-pointers and a late run. But I’m proud. I’m proud of how we fought. It’s more about my college career being over. These are my brothers. I love every single one of them and I’m sad that it has to come to an end. We shocked the world. I don’t think anyone had us going this far and so we shocked a lot of people and we proved a lot of people wrong. I’m just proud of this group. We accomplished so much. I’m just proud.”
By: Kyle Babcock
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