Ticket Punched: St. Joe's overcomes VCU press to win first A-10 title since 1997

Saint Joseph's players, along with supporters and officials, pose with the championship trophy after an NCAA college basketball game against VCU in the championship round of the Atlantic 10 Conference tournament at the Barclays Center in New York, Sunday, March 16, 2014. St. Joseph's defeated VCU 65-61. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

The 2013-14 St. Joseph’s team accomplished something the famous undefeated 2003-04 team could not pull off.

Behind a balanced scoring attack and another double-double from do-it-all senior forward Halil Kanacevic, the Hawks (24-9) outlasted the full-court press of a swarming VCU (26-8) squad to win the Atlantic 10 final, 65-61.

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Kanacevic, who was named the A-10 tournament’s most outstanding player, scored 11 points, grabbed 14 rebounds and dished out four assists. The Staten Island native is one of several Hawks with a unique skillset. Among those is lanky freshman forward DeAndre Bembry who added 13 points, eight assists and four rebounds and was crucial to the Hawks breaking through the Rams’ high-pressure defense.

Seniors Langston Galloway and Ronald Roberts also notched double-figure scoring efforts for the Hawks. Galloway, the third-leading scorer in St. Joes history, scored 19 points on just 11 shots, while Roberts added 15 points and 11 boards.

Phil Martelli’s Hawks, who hadn’t won an A-10 title since 1997, came into the tournament firmly on the NCAA tournament bubble. Close wins over Dayton and St. Bonaventure all-but confirmed a berth, but Sunday’s triumph over VCU sealed the deal.

The loss won’t jeopardize a spot in the tourney for Shaka Smart’s group. The Rams came into the A-10 final with an RPI of 12 and signature wins over ACC champion Virginia and several likely tournament-bound A-10 teams like George Washington (twice), Dayton and Saint Louis.

Rob Brandenberg led the Rams with 18 and Treveon Graham added 15. VCU has lost in the A-10 final in each of its first two seasons in the conference.