St. Joe

Hartford Courant - - Sports -

were com­pet­ing. They didn’t do it for me, they did it for us, all of us. When you see a group of peo­ple bond to­gether, that’s pretty spe­cial. … Yeah, it’s what I missed.”

It was, in short, ev­ery­thing a Hol­ly­wood scriptwriter could have con­jured for the Hall of Fame coach’s re­turn, six years after re­tir­ing at UConn. The Blue Jays trailed by 14, built a 13-point lead, and made the crit­i­cal plays down the stretch. Ryan O’Neill scored 25, with 19 in the sec­ond half, and iced the game with two free throws with 4.4 sec­onds left. Delshawn Jack­son Jr. from Prince Tech-Hart­ford scored 15, with 13 in the sec­ond half, to lead USJ.

“I wasn’t think­ing too much,” Jack­son said. “I just went out and played my game and I didn’t give up on my team­mates. I told them at half­time, ‘We’re go­ing to win this game.’”

Park­ing was at a premium out­side the Fer­ris Cen­ter, but folks found spots where they could, walk­ing through the rain and get­ting through ticket con­fu­sion, with some turned away, to fill ev­ery inch of the ex­pan­sive bleach­ers. Me­dia filled the bal­cony as Cal­houn walked out to join his as­sis­tant coaches just be­fore tip-off.

“This is much more than I could ever have hoped for,” USJ Pres­i­dent Rhona Free said. “That mo­ment when they got the first bas­ket, ab­so­lutely fan­tas­tic, and the crowd? We could not have hoped for a bet­ter crowd, more en­thu­si­as­tic. … It’s just been phe­nom­e­nal — and I know that [Cal­houn] just loves be­ing here.”

Wil­liam Pater­son scored two easy bas­kets to start the game, prompt­ing an ar­che­typal re­ac­tion from Cal­houn — a time­out after just 41 sec­onds. Chris Childs scored the first points in St. Joe’s men’s bas­ket­ball his­tory, with a 3-pointer.

Wil­liam Pater­son, a lit­tle big­ger, a lit­tle quicker, broke out late in the half, per­haps tak­ing ad­van­tage of St. Joe’s in­ex­pe­ri­ence, build­ing out its lead to 13 with an 11-1 run. Cal­houn was called for a tech­ni­cal with 4:17 left in the half.

The Jays were ice-cold from the floor, 11-for-32, but Bloom­field’s Mike Sa­gay hit a 3-pointer to pull them within 11 at the half, 41-30.

Sa­gay (13 points, nine re­bounds) hit an­other 3 to start the sec­ond half, ig­nit­ing the huge St. Joe’s run. Jack­son made two steals, a 3-pointer and a lay-in dur­ing the spurt. When Sa­gay scored on suc­ces­sive fast breaks, the Blue Jays had a 50-43 lead, and a 23-2 run.

“They started at­tack­ing us off the drib­ble,” said Pater­son coach Brian Chap­man, who in­tro­duced him­self to Cal­houn be­fore the game. “We got a lit­tle fraz­zled dur­ing that run, but we gath­ered our­selves and got back in the game.”

O’Neill added 12 points dur­ing the first eight min­utes of the sec­ond half as the St. Joe’s lead grew to 13, the crowd be­com­ing deaf­en­ing, the Cal­houn Ef­fect in full force.

“It was great, my team­mates set me up for a lot of open shots,” O’Neill said. “It’s all about get­ting the win.”

With Cal­houn’s ar­rival on cam­pus a year ago, the school’s tran­si­tion to co-ed has ex­ceeded ex­pec­ta­tions, for both male en­roll­ment, in which 57 of 96 stu­dents are ath­letes, and in­creased fe­male en­roll­ment. The first game on the West Hart­ford cam­pus will be against Brook­lyn’s Medgar Evers Col­lege on Sun­day at 1 p.m.

“What they did, when they needed to … it’s a long sea­son,” Cal­houn said, “but this is cer­tainly a hell of a way to start.”

CLOE POIS­SON/HART­FORD COURANT

St. Joseph’s Ryan O’Neill drives to the hoop in the open­ing game of the sea­son against the Wil­liam Pater­son Pioneers at the Ray Oost­ing Gym­na­sium at Trin­ity Col­lege. For­mer UConn men’s bas­ket­ball head coach Jim Cal­houn de­buted as the coach at St. Joseph.

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