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Eastern Florida Men Capture Second Straight Southern Conference Title

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Feb. 15, 2014 - There was no drama this time for Eastern Florida's men's basketball team. Just a determined, decisive victory that gave the Titans back-to-back Florida College System Activities Association Southern Conference championships for the first time in 34 years.

Eastern Florida built a 37-26 halftime lead, sprinted out to a 51-33 second-half advantage and put away visiting Miami Dade College 76-64 at the Melbourne Campus gym on Saturday to guarantee itself a spot in the NJCAA Region 8/FCSAA postseason tournament March 5-8 in Ocala.

team shot
The Titans celebrate by indicating they're number one in the conference for the second straight year.

The victory gave Eastern Florida a 9-2 conference record with one regular season game remaining, a Feb. 22 match-up at Broward College in Davie which now will have no bearing on Eastern Florida's conference ranking.

Broward, which beat Indian River State on Saturday, is 7-3 with two of its losses to Eastern Florida. Miami, which had split two earlier games with Eastern Florida, fell to 5-5. Conference teams play each other three times each season.

Eastern Florida also improved to 23-6 for the season with its 31st consecutive home court victory meaning sophomores Ben Patrick, Jure Gunjina, Mike Kirkland, Julian Adams, Torrance Rowe and Shaheed Davis – all who were recognized on Saturday – never lost at home in their Titans careers.

And the triumph gave the Titans a sense of accomplishment and relief since they had lost 67-60 Feb. 1 against Miami when they played in Kendall, making Saturday a must-win game without having to depend on the finale at Broward.

Rowe led Eastern Florida with 23 points while freshman Demetrius McReynolds contributed 14 and Kirkland 11.

"It feels great. It feels great," said Eastern Florida head coach Jeremy Shulman who won his 88th game at the helm.

"I've got to say this — it's also a little bit of a sigh of relief. Our goals are very high this year. Our goal is to make another great run at the state tournament. Our job is definitely not done."

As for winning the title for the second straight year at home: "That's the best, you can't beat that," Shulman said.

"I thought we just really guarded," Shulman said of his team's defensive effort. "I thought our guys executed our game plan and I thought we played our tails off.

"I like the fact there was no drama."

The victory was gratifying for Rowe who transferred to Eastern Florida for this season.

"All the hard work we put in over the summer, the off-season," Rowe said. "I feel so happy right now. You are going to have your ups and downs but you've got to stay positive and keep working. It showed.

"We knew what was at stake. We just wanted to come out and dominate from the beginning."

The game was tied twice at 5-5 and 12-12 but the Titans never trailed.

"Two years in a row, it's unbelievable," Kirkland said. "It's really special."

Those were the sentiments of Patrick and Adams as well.

"I honestly am so proud of our guys, so proud of the freshmen and especially the sophomores who I have been with for the last two years," Patrick said.

"And I'm just really happy we could do this for Coach Shulman, two seasons not losing at home. It's a testament to what Coach Shulman brings to this school," Patrick added about the 31-game home winning streak.

"It's only up from here," said Adams. "This is a special feeling. Coming out of high school I never had a team that was this successful. This much talent on one team.

"Everybody gets after it. It's so crazy. We go so hard to the point that we hate each other at times. Everybody pushes each other. Man one to the bottom man on the roster, everybody's just bringing it every day, day in and day out."