In front of a crowd that consisted of mostly VCU fans, Phil Martelli’s Hawks were able to defeat the second seeded VCU Rams at Barclays Center Sunday afternoon, 65-61. The Hawks had huge games from their big three seniors, Halil Kanacevic, Langston Galloway, and Ronald Roberts Jr.
St. Joe’s came out strong in the first half as the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, Halil Kanacevic scored seven of the Hawks’ first nine points and grabbed six rebounds in the first ten minutes. The tournament’s MOP finished with 11 points and 14 rebounds. With 6:29 remaining in the first half, Ronald Roberts threw down one of his three impressive dunks to give St. Joe’s a 21-13 lead, their largest of the game to that point. Despite the onslaught, Shaka Smart’s club fought hard to keep the game close, closing the half down just four.
In the second half, VCU kept the game extremely close before finally taking their first lead of the game with 12:39 left on a Treveon Graham three. Halfway through the second half, Rob Brandenburg made a layup to give the Rams their largest lead of48-42. A quick 6-0 run by the Hawks, four of those points from Kanacevic, the Hawks tied the game up at 48-48 with a little over seven minutes left in the game. The intensity picked up quite a bit from this point on with both teams going back and forth with one possession leads in either direction. With 2:28 left, Langston Galloway, who finished with 19 points on 5-11 shooting, hit the largest of his five, three point shots to give the Hawks a 57-54 lead. It was a step back three that Coach Phil Martelli said is uncoachable. Briante Weber took a three to tie the game on VCU’s next possession that clanged off the iron. On the ensuing St. Joe’s possession, DeAndre’ Bembry found Roberts inside for a wide-open dunk that gave the Hawks the momentum and a five point lead. They held that lead for the remainder of the game and were crowned champions.
The day before the championship game, Martelli told told his team “tomorrow we are coming for rings and net cuttings.” The 19-year coach was right and the celebration was oh so sweet for Martelli and his Hawks. Ronald Roberts Jr. and Langston Galloway were both named to the All-Tournament Team along with Kanacevic. The Hawks have received the tenth seed in the NCAA Tournament and will take on seventh seeded UConn in the first round of the NCAA Tournament Thursday in Buffalo.