St. Joe's enjoys its moment in Brooklyn

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Saint Joseph's forward DeAndre Bembry.

NEW YORK - As the last seconds ticked off Sunday at the Barclays Center, St. Joseph's forward Isaiah Miles sat right down on the court, just outside the three-point line. If conference tournaments don't mean much, Miles didn't get the memo. "Everything just hit me at once," Miles said later. "I had to take a seat."

After Miles joined the mob scene at center court celebrating an Atlantic Ten title, the senior went over to do a postgame interview with CBS. He didn't see his mother coming. She kind of tackled him from behind as he was about to go on the air. "I didn't know who it was," Miles said. "Then I heard her voice. That's just how she acts."

Scenes like that were breaking out all over the place.

"DeAndre' is like the coolest dude, old spirit, and he was in tears on the court," Hawks coach Phil  Martelli said of St. Joe's star DeAndre' Bembry.

A couple of hours later, the Hawks walked into a hotel in Lower Manhattan and got straight into a buffet line. "So hungry," one of them said.

They'd played like it.

"Man, we just wanted to punch first," Hawks senior Aaron Brown said of the early offensive spree, which Brown had led. Since Virginia Commonwealth had gotten off to flying starts in its previous A-10 games, "we just wanted to punch first and play from there."

The final in Brooklyn was 87-74. Whatever mojo the Hawks had lost the last 10 days of the regular season, they located it in Brooklyn, coming from deep behind to beat George Washington and toughing out the semifinal against top seed Dayton. Would they have anything left to deal with VCU?

The answer was: The Hawks looked like a very confident basketball team again. They were ridiculously efficient on offense. Late in the first half, they'd made 17 of 22 shots from inside the three-point arc, with three turnovers.

When the Hawks won the 2014 title, Bembry was a starter but anybody else from this team was a deep reserve on that one. Miles, named the most outstanding player of this tournament, had played four minutes in the 2014 A-10 tournament, none in the final.

St. Joe's "was one of the worst teams in the A-10 last year," Bembry said. "We're just happy that 80 percent of the guys on that team are on this team. We went through the struggles together and now we're going through the highs together."

The only struggle St. Joe's had in Brooklyn was getting out of there. The Hawks' bus was stuck in place for almost half an hour Sunday, a fire truck blocking its path. The subway back to Manhattan turned out to be quicker.

The only sour note during the game came when Papa Ndao, the hero of Saturday's semifinal, decided to argue a foul call in such a way that he ended up with a double technical and an automatic ejection. The Hawks were up, 70-49, at the time. VCU converted five of six free throws, got some momentum, and eventually got within seven points before St. Joe's pulled back away.

"I've never, ever had that happen and I am infuriated about that," Martelli said. "That's not how we represent ourselves."

This is Martelli's seventh time to the NCAA tournament. Each time presents its own story. This one will continue late Friday night in Spokane, Wash., against Cincinnati.

"We won 13 games last year," Martelli said. "This team is now the second-winningest team in the history of this program."

That's a fact. The Hawks' 27th win Sunday puts this year's team behind only the storied 2003-04 team.

"And they've done it with personality," Martelli said. "They haven't done it with problems. This team truly has been coached because they've allowed us to coach them. That's what makes it special for me. And when somebody says DeAndre' Bembry was in tears on that court, that's pretty cool."

And then there was Miles, who had explained early in the season that he had sworn off Wendy's Baconators, getting himself in maximum shape. At the end, Miles took a seat for just a moment as it hit home.

"You want us to clear the court?" a security guard eventually asked after the nets had been cut down.

"Clear it, clear it," a supervisor said.

It wasn't happening, not right away. The whole Hawks contingent lingered out there, grabbing souvenirs, taking selfies. The Hawk himself, the mascot, kept flapping until he took his feathered head off.

mjensen@phillynews.com

@jensenoffcampus