Blackbirds advance to NCAAs

Photo by Lem Peterkin

Four times the Long Island University-Brooklyn basketball team captured the Northeast Conference tournament and each time automatically advanced into the NCAA tournament. The last time was in March 2012.

On the past Tuesday evening, most of the cheering, capacity crowd went home on a happy note as the Blackbirds made it three times in a row going into this NCAA tourney with NEC tourney victories over Quinnipiac, 91-83, Wagner, 94-82, and Mount St. Mary’s, 91-70, with the quarter finals and championship game contested at the higher seeded team, and the semi-finals on the road.

Jack Perri enjoyed a very successful first season as head coach of the Blackbirds after spending seven years as its assistant coach. Perri would have enjoyed it still better if he had outstanding player Julian Boyd on the playing roster for the entire season. Boyd missed most of his senior year with an injured knee in the early going but he’ll be ready for action as a senior come September.

The hoop fans certainly felt very disappointed that Boyd went down.

Of course the Blackbirds felt a big loss at the beginning of the campaign, for he was one of their best players in the league and at the beginning of the season he was named preseason Player-of-the-Year of the Northeast Conference.

“We (were able to rise) to the occasion and win our third straight NEC title,” spectator Nicholas Henry, a former varsity player at Brooklyn’s Lafayette High School, said. “And a first year head coach did a great job.”

The rest of the players picked ‘it’ up. After the team lost six straight games it made a turn around with two numerous winning streaks of six and then five games entered the NCAA tournament riding high.

This is one of the best teams ever produced at Long Island University. And no one player dominated action. It’s been a team effort all season.

“We’re family and we’ve come together when we had to do and made history,” 6’7” senior forward Jamal Olasewere, who scored points and grabbed 10 rebounds, said after the 91-70 triumph over Mount St. Mary in the league’s tournament championship game.

“And we had a great crowd behind us,” said C.J. Garner, who scored a career high and game high of 31 points and turned in an tremendous offensive performance. Coach gave me a sense of urgency.”

And Jason Brickman controlled the game with eight assists from the guard position. They handled the pressure as well as they expected.

All the Blackbird fans, including the alumni and even the faculty of the downtown Brooklyn college, agreed that the final game was very exciting to watch with tremendous players and plays – dunks and passes leading to baskets. It doesn’t get better than what was displayed on the court of the Wellness, Recreation and Athletic Center, the home of the Blackbirds.

Take for example, late in the game when the outcome was already decided, a dunk by Olasewere culminating a fast break basket and 48 seconds later another drive this time by EJ Reed on a pass from Garnes just about iced it for the Brooklyn quintet.

Photo by Lem Peterkin

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