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Saint Francis stunned in tournament opener

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Cougars fail to defend Spring Arbor in loss

Thursday, February 27, 2014 - 1:56 am

Saint Francis allowed Spring Arbor to accomplish a lot in their opening game of the Crossroads League men's basketball tournament Wednesday at the Hutzell Athletic Center. Spring Arbor connected on over 60 percent of its shots, out-rebounded Saint Francis 226-22 and defended the Saint Francis perimeter shooters, forcing them to misfire on a dozen of their 15 three-point attempts.

Seventh-seed Spring Arbor (12-19) stunningly prevailed over second-seed Saint Francis 63-55.

"It's frustrating that all the things we worked on in practice the last two days didn't carry over to the game,” Saint Francis coach Chad LaCross said in a release. “Our help side and gap defense was non-existent."

All is not lost, perhaps, for Saint Francis. With its runner-up finish in the conference regular season, as well as being ranked 12th nationally, Saint Francis should be assured a berth in the NAIA Division II National Tournament next month in Branson, Mo.

"Fortunately, we're in a position to go to work and get some things cleaned up before we go to (Branson)," LaCross said.

It was the third meeting between the two teams, but both Saint Francis victories had been by single digits.

Saint Francis tied the game early in the second half on a three-point shot from junior wing Josh Hogan. Spring Arbor scored seven unanswered points and never trailed again.

Saint Francis (21-10) was limited to just two baskets over the final 3:57 of the contest.

"We got what we deserved," Saint Francis senior Scott Kohne said. "The way we played today, we deserved it. We came out pretty flat. They came out with intensity and outplayed us.

“I don't think we came out thinking 'We've already got it made.' But they've got to win the tournament to keep playing. I really can't pinpoint why we played the way we did. We'll have to make better memories in Branson."

It was a night of tournament upsets, as third-seed Huntington fell at home to sixth-seed Grace 56-54.

Saint Francis will now await the announcement of the national tournament pairings Wednesday.

Austin Fox led Saint Francis with 13 points and six rebounds, while Kyle Sovine chipped in 10 points. Kohne was limited to nine points and three rebounds.

"We'll be (all right),” LaCross said. “We will bounce back. When we've had our backs against the wall this season, we've played well."