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St. Joe’s runs away with A-10 championship

Stephon Johnson | 3/20/2014, 3:47 p.m.

St. Joseph’s University showed up to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on the NCAA Tournament bubble. They left Brooklyn Atlantic 10 champions with a ticket to the big dance.

The Phil Martelli-coached squad edged VCU 65-61 in the Atlantic 10 championship game this past Sunday, with the seniors on the team leading the charge. Guard Langston Galloway contributed 19 points, and forward Ronald Roberts Jr. added 16 (on 6 for 6 shooting), along with 11 rebounds.

Halil Kanacevic, St. Joe’s center and a Staten Island native, was voted Most Outstanding Player in the conference tournament, setting a tournament record 43 rebounds in three games.

“We could go play another 40 if I got to feel this way again,” said Kanacevic after his team finished cutting down the nets, celebrating the conference victory.

“It’s truly an honor to come in here and win these three games,” said Martelli after the game. “I couldn’t be happier for not just the seniors, but this whole group. … They have been an easy group to work with, and I’m delighted that we’ll have another chance to work and play again on Thursday or Friday.”

Galloway hit a big 3-pointer with just over two minutes left in regulation to break a tie in the VCU game. “I just wanted to step up for my team,” he said after the game. “I knew it was a critical time. I had the ball in my hands, so I just wanted to make a play.”

The weekend in Brooklyn saw St. Joseph’s slip by Dayton in the quarterfinal and dominate St. Bonaventure in the semifinal before going toe-to-toe with the Shaka Smart-coached VCU.

“Those guys are tough guys,” said Smart after the game. “As seniors, they stepped up.”

St. Joe’s will trek up from their Philadelphia campus to the city of Buffalo for the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Playing as the 10 seed, they’ll battle seventh-seeded Connecticut in the East Regional.