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Local colleges

Pat Dailey | Special to The Journal Gazette
Saint Francis’ Austin Fox shoots against Robert Morris at the NAIA Division II national championship in Point Lookout, Mo., on Thursday.

Saint Francis men fall in overtime of opener

– Austin Fox will find plenty of motivation this offseason while recalling the shot that got away from him.

Fox missed an attempted go-ahead jumper with 1.8 seconds remaining in overtime that all but sealed Saint Francis’ fate in its 69-66 opening-round loss to Robert Morris (Ill.) at the NAIA Division II national championship on Thursday.

Fox was long and strong on a 10-foot bank shot with the Cougars down 67-66.

“I was going for a bank,” Fox said. “But it was a bad shot. I should have passed it to someone else. I feel so bad because I let (senior Scott Kohne) down. He’s like a brother to me. I wish I could have done more for him.”

Saint Francis (21-11) surely wished for a whole lot more than four points in the extra period.

“A couple calls didn’t go our way and a couple bounces didn’t go our way,” said Kohne, who had 14 points and 11 rebounds. “It was a bad overtime.”

Added Fox: “We couldn’t come up with loose balls and rebounds in overtime.”

Saint Francis had done practically everything right while taking control over the final minute of regulation, save for leaving Robert Morris’ Demarko Nash wide open while trying to protect a 62-59 lead.

Three Cougars chased down Sean Montgomery, thinking he would be the one to attempt a tying 3. But Montgomery alertly spotted Nash, who swished a 3 with 1.3 seconds remaining.

“They had great ball movement,” Kohne said. “There was nothing we could do about it.”

Actually, Cougars coach Chad LaCross wondered if there was something he could have done. He was questioning afterward if he should have had one of his players purposely foul before Robert Morris could attempt a 3.

“I told our guys I feel like I let them down,” LaCross said. “It was tough in that situation because we didn’t have a timeout to talk about (fouling beforehand). Otherwise, there’s no question I would have had our guys foul them, even at the 10-second line and put them at the foul line. With the way they shoot the 3, I felt pretty good about having them take a contested opportunity. Unfortunately, they got a good look at it. We forced (Nash) to make a big play and he did.”

Robert Morris (24-9) survived 9-of-19 free-throw shooting largely due to 16 offensive rebounds. The lead changed hands 16 times and there were 14 ties.

Saint Francis was down by nine, 52-43, before unleashing a 10-0 run to take the lead.

“All year long we’ve come back,” Kohne said. “I couldn’t be more proud of my teammates. We always fight till the end.”

Indeed, Saint Francis’ final shot from 75 feet away at the buzzer by Josh Hogan hit the front end of the rim. Kohne, who was part of Saint Francis’ national championship outfit as a freshman three years ago, ends his career with 1,570 points and 791 rebounds.

“From where I came my freshman year to where I am now, I couldn’t have written a better story,” Kohne said. “It’s been awesome. To not make it here last year and be able to come here this year, you can’t ask for anything better.”