EMMITSBURG — Elijah Long intercepted a pass and raced to the rim in transition. When he attempted the layup, he was fouled hard by Jahmel Bodrick and fell to the ground.
After being restrained by his teammates, Long gathered his composure and the officials reviewed the play. The foul stood and coach Jamion Christian subsequently received a rare technical foul with just under 16 minutes to play.
“I just want these guys to know I’m there for them,” Christian said, who then recalled he’s only received three technical fouls in his tenure at Mount St. Mary’s. “I’m just not going to let [their] guys come in here and foul our guys like that.”
The passion displayed by their coach immediately turned into positive results for Mount St. Mary’s as they went on a 24-3 run to cruise past St. Francis Brooklyn on Saturday at the Knott Arena, 77-62, and claiming the regular season Northeast Conference championship in the process.
“When you see your coach fighting for you like that, why aren’t you going to fight for him?” said Long, who finished with 22 points and seven assists.
While the offense clicked during the scoring run, the Mountaineers (16-15, 14-4) fed off their defensive effort as they forced four turnovers and limited second chance opportunities for the Terriers by corralling multiple tough rebounds around the rim.
Mount St. Mary’s raced out of the gates to a 10-4 lead as they converted their first five shots and forced two turnovers in the first four minutes.
The Mountaineers took an 18-11 lead with 10:40 left to play in the first half after Ryan Gomes made a layup off an assist from Miles Wilson (17 points). St. Francis Brooklyn then countered with a 17-0 run to take a 28-18 lead with 5:14 left before halftime.
The Mountaineers were able to respond with a 10-0 run of their own to tie the game at 28-all after Long made two free throws. The Terriers, entering Saturday’s game with a 15-game losing streak, took a 35-33 halftime lead.
After the technical foul was assessed with about 16 minutes left, Long converted his two free throws to ignite the monstrous run. Wilson accounted for 10 of the 24 points during the span and Junior Robinson nailed a pair of 3’s.
The Mountaineers coasted to the finish line as the lead never shrunk below 11 points, which gave their seniors, Charles Glover, Khalid Nwandu and Will Miller an opportunity to close out the game on senior night.
After the final buzzer, the celebration ensued as Mount St. Mary’s clinched their first regular season conference title since the 1995-96 season. With the conference title under their belt, they will have home-court advantage throughout their conference tournament.
Mount St. Mary’s will host Sacred Heart in the Northeast Conference quarterfinals on Wednesday night at 7 p.m. at the Knott Arena.
The Mountaineers swept the regular season series against the Pioneers with an 86-75 road win that was preceded by a 67-53 win at home.
Mount St. Mary’s will turn from celebration to preparation as they look to build off their regular season success and earn an appearance in the NCAA Tournament if they are able to win the NEC tournament.
“What we set our goal on is far from over.” Chris Wray said. “We’re grateful for [the regular season conference title] but we want more.”