Tyler Kelley relishes the thought of playing in front of his home crowd.

Kelley, a junior guard on the St. Joseph’s men’s basketball team, likes the roar that comes from the stands with each dunk or even the collective yell following a simple basket by the Monks.

Kelley will get to go through it all again as he and the Monks open the Great Northeast Athletic Conference tournament at 7 tonight by hosting a quarterfinal against Lasell at the Alfond Center.

”If we can get that home game, which we do have, it’s going to be a lot easier for us,” Kelley said. ”We get that first game in the playoffs, and if we do that, then we’ll have good momentum.”

St. Joseph’s (19-6, 14-4 GNAC) is one of nine area men’s and women’s basketball teams playing in Division III conference tournaments, along with the University of New England men and women, the Bowdoin women, the University of Southern Maine women, the Colby men and women and the Bates men and women. It’s a Maine version of March Madness.

The Bowdoin men also qualified for the postseason but lost to Bates in the NESCAC quarterfinals on Saturday.

”Right now, it’s pretty much the only thing that goes on,” said Kelley, a Thornton Academy graduate. ”Everyone’s playing basketball and trying to make noise in the tournament. It’s something to feel good about and I’m happy our team is in this position.”

The winner of tonight’s game between the Monks and the Lasers (10-15, 8-10) will advance to Thursday’s semifinals.

”We match up pretty well, we’re both athletic teams who both shoot the basketball well and produce off transition well,” said St. Joseph’s Coach Rob Sanicola.

”We have to stay healthy and stay out of foul trouble. We’re very balanced and we move the ball particularly well on offense, and there are five guys on the floor who can pass, shoot or rebound for us.”

Kelley helped the Monks earn the No. 3 seed by scoring a season-high 31 points Saturday in a 83-61 win over Mount Ida.

”Personally, it was one of those days where it just felt good coming off the hands,” Kelley said. ”I’m not a player who likes to create my own offense. I love using my teammates’ screens. They’re looking to get me open, and so much credit goes to the guys on the team, like our point guard, the inside guys.

”Just like with anyone on the team, if someone’s having a strong game, we’re going to look for them for the pass.”

Kelley is the team’s second-leading scorer at 14.5 points a game, with Zach O’Brien the leader at 14.6. Sanicola regards Kelley as a strong shooter who prides himself on his defense, as well as a player who can provide an emotional spark for the Monks. Sanicola said Kelley’s growth as a basketball player has mirrored his personal and academic growth at St. Joseph’s.

”He’s surpassed all expectations and that’s a credit to him,” Sanicola said. ”The No. 1 thing for him was in the classroom and he continues to do well. That gives him the opportunity to play.

”He does the little things off the court so there are no issues for him on the court. In the summer, he’s continued to work out and get stronger. He had to dedicate himself in the weight room, the time in the pool and in the gym, and he took that to heart.”

 

Staff Writer Rachel Lenzi can be reached at 791-6415 or at: rlenzi@pressherald.com