JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – In a game that featured five ties and seven lead changes, Saint Francis University (Pa.) escaped from Historic Swisher Gym with a 78-76 victory over Jacksonville University (17-16).
Jacksonville got off to a hot start by forcing three turnovers in the Red Flash’s first three possessions, and outscored Saint Francis 8-2 in the opening two and a half minutes. The Red Flash started to find their rhythm over the next six minutes, outscoring JU 14-4 to take a 16-14 lead. A Cody Helgeland three gave JU the lead again, and though Patrick Wrencher briefly put Saint Francis back on top 18-17 on two free throws, momentum remained on JU’s side.
The Dolphins outscored the Red flash 11-2 from 8:48 left in the half to 7:22 left, and led 28-20. Saint Francis had another run left though, cutting the lead down to just two points, 30-28, with 6:04 remaining. JU and SFU traded runs for the rest of the half, and at the half JU led 40-34.
The run exchange continued in the second half. Jacksonville led by as much as eight, 44-36, with 18:48 left in the game, and just five minutes later Saint Francis led by two, 50-48. Darien Fernandez hit a driving layup just a few seconds later to tie the game, and J.R. Holder gave JU a two-point lead, 52-50, with 12:08 left.
That would be the final time the Dolphins would lead in the game. Saint Francis retook the lead on a deep three, and then strung together a 16-7 run for the Red Flash’s largest lead of the game, 69-59. JU’s veteran leadership stepped up late, pulling JU within two points with 3:32, 69-67, on a jumper from Antwon Clayton, and again, 71-69, on two free throws from Fernandez with just over two minutes remaining. The Red Flash stretched their lead to five, 76-71, with 37 seconds, but clutch free throws by Cody Helgeland kept JU within reach.
On the next play the Dolphins forced a turnover and had an opportunity to tie the game, but Clayton’s jumper got an unfriendly roll on the rim and ended up out of bounds with just nine seconds on the clock. The Dolphins had to foul, and SFU’s Isaiah Blackmon hit both his free throws to put the game back at five points. A Marcel White three at the buzzer put the score at the final margin, 78-76.
• White finished his career with 1,003 points. The senior had 988 points before this game.
• Fernandez finished the season leading the ASUN in steals. This is the first time in over two decades any player has led the ASUN in steals in consecutive seasons.
• Holder concludes his career in a Dolphin uniform with 1,368 points, 15th all-time. His 565 points this season ranks in the Top 20 all-time for single-season scoring.