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Monday, February 26, 2007

Hawks season ends with barely a whimper/Press story for Tuesday

By TONY GRAHAM
STAFF WRITER

It's over.

The most disappointing Monmouth University men's basketball season since the losing years of the late 1990's ground to a halt Monday night when the Hawks fell to Northeast Conference tail ender St. Francis, Pa., 73-62, in Loretto, Pa.

The defeat, coupled with a 72-69 victory by St. Francis, New York over Fairleigh Dickinson allowed the Terriers to snag the eighth and final playoff berth for the 2007 Northeast Conference Tournament which begins Thursday. Monmouth (7-11, 12-18) and St. Francis, N.Y. (9-21, 7-11) finished tied for eighth place but St. Francis gained the playoffs via a tie breaker.

The Hawks needed both St. Francis and Long Island U. to lose Monday night to back into the eighth seed. LIU lost to Robert Morris.

"Obviously this team didn't deserve to be in the playoffs,'' said Monmouth coach Dave Calloway following Monday's defeat. Monmouth became the first team in league history that was eligible for the post season to fail to qualify for the NEC event after winning the NEC Tournament the year before.

""Down the stretch we lose three straight and in the second halves we gave up 44 points to LIU, 54 to Sacred Heart, and 46 in this game,'' said Calloway.

""We've always won with defense, especially this time of year. This team was not committed to defense, they were not committed to each other. Therefore it was not a team.''

With the game tied at the half, 27-27, St. Francis (8-21, 5-13) opened the second half with a 15-6 run taking a 42-33 lead. Monmouth got within 51-47 on a Corey Halett free throw but no closer.

Its season all but officially ended when Marquis Ford hit a 3 to give the Red Flash a 67-55 lead with two minutes showing.

Monmouth was picked first in the Preseason NEC Coaches Poll, which has a long history of being incorrect. ""That's why they play the games,'' said Calloway.

In their final games for Monmouth three seniors were high scorers. MarquesAlston had 15 points, John Bunch 14, and Dejan Delic 10.

Monmouth tumbled out of the playoffs by losing five of its last six games. But it's fatal nose dive could be traced to Feb. 5 when it blew an 18-point lead at Fairligh Dickinson and lost at the buzzer on a jump shot by Manny Ubilla.

It went on to lose six of its final eight games.

e-mail tonygsports@aol.com.

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