WEST HARTFORD, Conn.— The No. 17 University of Saint Joseph (USJ) men's basketball team are the 2019-20 Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) champions, defeating intrastate rival and defending champion Albertus Magnus College (AMC), 88-84, inside a high-octane and sold-out O'Connell Athletic Center Sunday afternoon.
The championship rematch lived up to all the hype, with both teams taking each other's biggest punch head-on. After all of the emotions and runs (the Blue Jays led by 19 at the half, and the Falcons came storming back), the game was tied at 80 with 1:34 on the clock to decide a winner, and we wouldn't want it any other way. Both teams traded baskets from their stars, sophomore forward Terry Dawkins (Bronx, N.Y.) for AMC, and sophomore guard Delshawn Jackson Jr. (Hartford, Conn.) for USJ, who had one of the all-time great performances in GNAC Championship history, scoring a school-record 46 points on 16-of-23 from the floor (8-11 FT). 'DJ' gave the lift the Blue Jays needed down the stretch, and with some help from the always pesky freshman forward Jalen Samuels (Franklin, Mass.), who made the steal that gave Saint Joseph a four-point lead, the Blue Jays had just a little bit more this time around, avenging the heartbreak of defeat down in New Haven this time one year ago.
Jackson Jr. hit one clutch shot after another (inside and out), as he has done all year, but he did have some help. Sophomore point guard Jaecee Martin (Hartford, Conn.) struggled from the line, but continued to find a way to make an impact on both ends (15 PTS, 4 REB, 3 STL). Junior forward Jordan Powell (Middletown, Conn.) chipped in with eight points and six boards. Dawkins was sensational for the Falcons, scoring 27 points on 9-of-13 from the field (9-9 FT) and grabbing nine rebounds. Junior guard Tyreek Perkins (New Haven, Conn.) had a clutch second half, scoring 20 points (7-16 FG).
The Blue Jays dominated the first half, holding the Falcons to just 25 points, but the experience of this Albertus championship team under 13-year head coach, and seven-time champion Mitch Oliver, gave them a fighting chance. Pressure defense and physicality inside paid off, as the Falcons turned a 21-point deficit into a tie game with the trophy on the line. DJ answered with two perfect foul shots to give USJ an 82-80 lead. The play of the game was the steal by Samuels, who came to DJ's aid after getting beat by half a step on a drive by sophomore guard Qualon Wilkes (Bridgeport, Conn.). Samuels poked the ball into the Blue Jays' side of the court, and DJ did the rest, giving USJ an 84-80 lead with 50 seconds to go. After some sloppy play and missed free throws on both sides, the Blue Jays were able to hang on for their first GNAC championship in program history in just their second-ever season. JC and Powell were selected to the all-tournament team, as was DJ, who won Most Valuable Player honors:
2020 GNAC Men's Basketball All-Tournament Team
Terry Dawkins - Albertus Magnus
Jahmerikah Green-Younger - Albertus Magnus
Mike Rapoza - Anna Maria
EJ Day - Lasell
Delshawn Jackson Jr. - Saint Joseph (Conn.) [MVP]
Jaecee Martin - Saint Joseph (Conn.)
Jordan Powell - Saint Joseph (Conn.)
Score: Saint Joseph 88, Albertus Magnus 84
Records: USJ (26-2), AMC (22-5)
Location: O'Connell Athletic Center | West Hartford, Conn.
NUMBER TO KNOW
1,000 – DJ scored a school-record 46 points in the biggest game in program history, breaking his tie with Mike Sagay for the most points scored in one men's basketball game (36). In doing so, Jackson Jr. passed 1,000 career points in just 54 career games. DJ needed 10 points to eclipse the mark, he did it early on in the first half.
- The Blue Jays lost 81-77 in the 2019 GNAC title game. They won Sunday by the same margin they lost by, 88-84. It was also the same score they lost to Albertus on (88-84) in their first-ever meeting in 2019, right here in the O-C.
- Saint Joseph won its eighth GNAC Championship in school history amongst all its programs Sunday, increasing their mark to 8-3 all-time in GNAC championship games.
- The team stats were either similar, or slightly favored the Falcons across the board, but the Blue Jays benefited from three more three-pointers than AMC, shooting it 7-for-16 on the game (44%). DJ had six of those seven.
- The Falcons are now 8-5 all-time in the GNAC Men's Basketball Championship game alone (more wins, losses and appearances than any other team in conference history). This was their ninth straight title appearance, but their first time not hosting the title game since 2013.
- Saint Joseph is now 2-2 all-time against Albertus Magnus.
The Blue Jays are headed to NCAA Division III Tournament with their conference championship win. The selection show is Monday, March 2 at 12:30 p.m. live on NCAA.com. Be sure to tune in to see when and where Saint Joseph will play next!
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