Like every college basketball coach, LIU Brooklyn's Jack Perri usually enjoys when an inbound play he draws up results in a basket.
Thursday night provided a rare exception.
With LIU Brooklyn leading Northeast Conference foe St. Francis (PA) by 23 points and 4 minutes, 30 seconds remaining in the second half, E.J. Reed inbounded the ball under the opposing basket. Reed's inbound pass deflected off the outstretched hand of defender Earl Brown, glanced off the backboard and spun through the rim for the most unlikely St. Francis basket imaginable.
"That was wacky," Perri said Friday morning. "I didn't even realize it went in, and then all of a sudden I looked up and they had two more points. It happened really quickly. We had a pretty comfortable lead, so it wasn't a big deal. But it was a crazy play."
What's especially funny about the sequence is nobody would ever know anything unusual happened from the play-by-play in the box score. It reads simply, "Earl Brown steal. Earl Brown made jumper."
In reality, everyone in the gym was a little confused. The scorekeeper was so unsure what happened, he forgot to reset the shot clock, which resulted in the Blackbirds passing the mid-court stripe on the ensuing possession with only 18 seconds left to get a shot off.
"I've never seen that before," Perri said. "Between the angle and having it pop in the basket, you could try that 1,000 times and not have that happen again."
It was easy for Perri to laugh about the play since his team emerged with an 82-62 victory to extend its winning streak to six in a row. The defending NEC champion Blackbirds (11-10, 6-3) are now within a game of first place Bryant University, pretty amazing considering the adversity they've endured this season.
NEC player of the year Julian Boyd and teammates Jamal Olasewere, Troy Joseph and C.J. Garner were each suspended for the opening two games of the season for their role in a brawl at an on-campus party in September. Then Boyd suffered a season-ending torn ACL in mid-December, robbing the Blackbirds of their best player for the rest of the season.
It looked for a while like LIU Brooklyn would fade to the middle of the NEC without Boyd, but other players have stepped up in his absence. Olasewere has become comfortable in the role of go-to threat and Garner has shouldered more of the scoring load.
"Our guys had to adjust to new roles because Julian was such a big part of our offense," Perri said. "C.J. Garner needed to be more aggressive because he's capable and Jamal had to figure out he didn't have to do everything by himself. There were four or five games right after that where he was turning the ball over at an astronomical level, but he was just trying to do too much. Once he realized he was able to create for others, that helped us out a lot."
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