A coach receiving an ejection usually fires up a team. Phil Martelli’s ejection in the second half Wednesday night set St. Joe’s back against St. Bonaventure, as the Hawks lost, 83-77, at Hagen Arena (see Instant Replay).
In the middle of the second half, St. Joe’s held possession for four straight plays thanks to offensive rebounds. The Hawks were trying desperately to trim a 59-55 deficit to a one-possession game.
For nearly a minute and a half, the Hawks had four attempts to score before Brendan Casper drove the lane, drawing contact — a foul that would go in the Bonnies' favor.
Martelli went ballistic, a move that would result in two technical fouls and an automatic ejection. The head coach left the court as boos showered the officials and chants of Martelli's name rained down from the stands.
St. Bonavenure’s deadliest offensive weapon of the night, Matt Mobley, drained all four free throws to make it a 63-55 game.
"There was a play in front of me, maybe it was 50-50, I have no idea,” Martelli said. “And all heck broke loose. I’ll have to look at the film and figure it out. Now the second guy warned me, he didn’t just fly off the handle.”
James Demery, who led St. Joe's with 21 points, wouldn't use his coach's tossing as an excuse for the failed rally.
“It is tough but at the end of the day," Demery said, "we still have to continue playing and keep that energy high."
Martelli’s ejection certainly was a turning point, but it wasn’t the only reason the Hawks lost. The coach described it best: “It still comes back to the numbers for me: turnovers and foul shooting.”
The Hawks went 18 for 27 from the free throw line, 3 for 18 from beyond the arc and had 15 turnovers, which were converted into 24 points for the Bonnies.
The numbers don't lie, but Martelli never wavered when asked about the effort his team put forward — instead, he offered there needs to be improvements made.
“It’s not will, it’s skill. It’s skill,” Martelli said. “I don’t have any question about their efforts. Their skill, and that’s not an excuse, but with the limited bodies, we just don’t get enough skill.”
With four minutes remaining, the Hawks found themselves down, 72-62, and all hope seemingly lost. But a small surge brought St. Joe's to within three with 26 seconds left to play. Charlie Brown went 4 for 4 from the free throw line, Demery added a layup and Chris Clover drained a three during the stretch. Nick Robinson capped it off with a three, whittling St. Bonaventure's lead down to 78-75.
“We don’t give up over here, everybody on this team has heart,” Demery said. “Every day we are going to go out there and give 110 percent. There’s some plays we didn’t finish. I mean, I had five turnovers, so we just have to finish.”
The Hawks tried to foul to stop the clock but the Bonnies were too efficient from the free throw line. The charity stripe and lack of time were St. Joe's ultimate demise.
In Robinson’s mind, his effort still wasn’t enough.
“If I would have made three free throws, we would have been tied,” Robinson said, referencing the three free throws he missed earlier in the game.
“We picked up the intensity and the positive energy,” Demery said of the late surge. “That’s what we need as a unit to be great. Everybody lifting each other up, that’s what it takes.”
The Hawks' next game will be at Saint Louis this Saturday (4:30 p.m./NBCSN).