SFC Brooklyn Falls to Defending Two-Time National Champions, 89-33

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The Terriers made history by reaching the NCAA Tournament, but were quickly eliminated by top-ranked Connecticut, 89-33, at Gampel Pavilion in Storrs, Conn. AP photo

They came. They saw. They were soundly defeated.

But the fighting spirit of the 2014-15 St. Francis Brooklyn Terriers was left intact following Saturday night’s lopsided 89-33 loss to the defending two-time national champion and top-ranked Connecticut Huskies before a crowd of 3,666 at Gampel Pavilion in Storrs, Conn.

“This was an incredible experience for our program,” said Terriers head coach John Thurston, who guided St. Francis to its first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance in either men’s or women’s basketball.

“[UConn] coach [Geno] Auriemma is a gentleman,” Thurston added. “He said nice things about our team and that means a lot to these girls. I told the girls if we played anyone else, we would have beat them, but it would take the defending national champions to knock us out.”

While that might be stretching the truth a bit, the Terriers did show considerable grit in the early stages of the contest.

After senior Sarah Benedetti, the NEC Tournament MVP, drilled the second of her three 3-pointers on the evening en route to 13 points, SFC pulled within 16-11 of arguably the greatest team in the history of women’s college basketball with 14:31 remaining in the first half.

Of course, that was the end of the competitive portion of the game, which UConn put away quite handily before the half, breaking out to an insurmountable 47-14 advantage at intermission.

But it hardly mattered to an SFC squad that defied the odds on so many occasions already this season, overcoming a 15-19 regular-season mark to make history by reeling off three straight NEC Tournament road wins en route to Storrs.

“Coming in, I knew Gampel was a great atmosphere to play in, and this NCAA tournament game was exactly what I expected,” noted Benedetti, a Canton, Conn., native.

“I knew UConn’s fans would be lively and it was nice to have the support of my family and friends back home from Canton who came to the game,” she added. “Regardless of the outcome, I had such a great time and it was such an enjoyable experience that I will remember forever.”

Benedetti and fellow seniors Jaymee Veney, Eilidh Simpson, Katie Fox and Colette Hounshell carved out a bit of “forever” in their own right.

They, along with the rest of this year’s Terriers, will be remembered as the first-ever SFC team to compete in an NCAA Tournament, punching their ticket just a few days after the men’s squad failed to do so at home against Robert Morris.

“Tonight was great for the program,” said Fox. “The first time in school history that we made it to the NCAA Tournament. Going against UConn you know to expect to face great athletes. I was proud of how we fought tonight and how we played our hearts out for our final time on the court together.”

“It was such an amazing experience,” added freshman Alex Delaney. “The crowd was incredible. I still can’t believe this happened. It was so fun to compete against UConn, and I am glad we had this opportunity to play there tonight.”

Delaney, Simpson and Veney managed just five points apiece for SFC, which was outrebounded 44-31 by the bigger Huskies, who went on to thump Rutgers, 91-55, in the second round Monday night as they pursue a third consecutive title.

As for the Terriers, they did their diminutive Downtown Brooklyn school, as well as the NEC, proud just by making it to Gampel Pavilion on Saturday night.

“St. Francis Brooklyn showed the nation that Northeast Conference Basketball is a competitive league,” said NEC Commissioner Noreen Morris.

“They were fighters; they didn’t get intimidated by UConn. For St. Francis to go out there and play hard and not give up and continue to fight to the very end showcased the league in terms of class and commitment. Sarah has been a great asset to the NEC and for St. Francis Brooklyn Basketball under John. They are a team that will continue to compete for NEC Championships.”

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