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Halil Kanacevic drives St. Joseph's into A-10 final

Halil Kanacevic and Langston Galloway of the Saint

Halil Kanacevic and Langston Galloway of the Saint Joseph's Hawks celebrate after a play in the second half against the St. Bonaventure Bonnies during the Semifinals of the 2014 Atlantic 10 Men's Basketball Tournament at Barclays Center on March 15, 2014. Credit: Getty Images / Mike Lawrie

Still flapping. In the grand tradition of its Hawk mascot, continuously flailing his wings through every basketball game, St. Joseph's just kept keeping on Saturday, eventually wearing down St. Bonaventure in the Atlantic 10 Tournament semifinals and won going away, 67-48.

Part of St. Bonaventure's problem at Barclays Center was playing a third game in three days on tired legs and low emotional fuel, having upset top seed Saint Louis on Friday. But its bigger challenge, ultimately, was the persistence of St. Joseph's -- and especially 6-8 senior Halil Kanacevic.

Kanacevic, a Staten Island lad who transferred from Hofstra after making the Colonial Athletic Association all-freshman team three years ago, produced game-high totals in scoring (26), rebounds (17) and assists (four), and added a blocked shot and two steals for good measure.

More than that, St. Joseph's coach Phil Martelli said, Kanacevic "was the one, when it was ugly for about 14 or 15 minutes, who kept saying in the timeouts, 'Listen, it's all right. We are just down nine.' 'We're down one.' 'It's tied.'

"Whatever we [coaches] had to say, he said it to them. And because he says so much, they all listen to him."

Kanacevic insisted that he "doesn't care about anything but winning" and that, instead of scoring, "all I really care about is rebounding."

Whatever his personal emphasis, he clearly held his team together after St. Bonaventure (18-15) tempted to pull the rug out from under St. Joseph's (23-9), just as it had against defending A-10 Tournament champion Saint Louis.

With its lean towers, 7-foot Youssou Ndoye and 6-8 Marquise Simmons, flying to the rim in the early minutes, St. Bonaventure opened a 19-10 lead, in spite of repeatedly missing contested layups.

Then St. Bonaventure went into an offensive lull through the last 10 minutes of the first half and Kanacevic scored 11 of St. Joseph's 19 points (assisted on two others). He continued that theme early in the second half, his spinning hook and driving layup opening up a 38-32 St. Joseph's lead that never stopped expanding.

Kanacevic directed traffic from the perimeter, mixing in a couple of three-point baskets (in four attempts), when he wasn't controlling matters inside.

"Halil," Martelli said, "has been asked to sacrifice [in his team's system]. He'll tell you he's been asked to sacrifice, and if he could play in the low post, he'd be convinced these would be the numbers he could post every single night.

"On a team full of great teammates, he's the best teammate."

St. Joseph's early disarray disappeared in the second half, when senior guard Langston Galloway, the team's scoring leader this season, got 16 of his 18 points. Senior forward Ronald Roberts added 12.

So Sunday, St. Joseph's continues flapping against Virginia Commonwealth. Likely, according to NCAA bracketologists, St. Joseph's quarterfinal A-10 victory over Dayton already had assured it a place in the NCAA Tournament.

But first, the team and its Hawk mascot would like to wing themselves to a conference title.

New York Sports