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Eastern Florida's Men's Basketball Loses in Tournament Quarterfinal; Season Over
March 5, 2014 - A season that spanned 31 games over more than four months ended in a flash.
Eastern Florida sophomore and co-captain Torrance Rowe slashed to the basket for what would have been the winning layup only to see his shot swatted away at the buzzer.
And with that Eastern Florida's men's basketball team suffered a heartbreaking 69-68 loss to Polk State College in the quarterfinal round of the Florida College System Activities Association/NJCAA Division I Region 8 tournament at the College of Central Florida in Ocala to end its season.
Just like that.
Eastern Florida, which advanced to the tournament by virtue of its second consecutive FCSAA Southern Conference title for the first time in 34 seasons, finished the campaign at 24-7.
The Titans certainly had their chances to advance. They built leads in the first and second halves only to allow Polk to hang close and in the end pull a rabbit – and a victory – out of the hat.
Eastern Florida led 68-64 with 20.3 seconds to play but Polk sophomore Brock VanLier, who finished with 14 points including four three-pointers, sank a shot from behind the line to cut the lead to 68-67.
After consecutive Polk timeouts, Eastern Florida freshman Jermohn Queen was fouled with 10.7 seconds to play but missed both free throws. Polk rebounded and pushed the ball up the floor and into the right corner where VanLier was fouled attempting another three-pointer.
He sank two of the three shots for a 69-68 lead with 4.3 seconds to play.
Following a Titans timeout Rowe dribbled up the left side and cut to the basket but was denied by Polk freshman Shavanno Cooper and the game was over.
Rowe and freshman Demetrius McReynolds led Eastern Florida with 16 points each. Sophomore Ben Patrick contributed 15.
Sophomore Jamal Evans also scored 14 points for Polk while Cooper added 12 and Tyquan Burno added 10.
Both teams struggled from the free-throw line, Eastern Florida going 25-for-38 and Polk 17-34. Polk grabbed 43 rebounds to 39 for Eastern Florida.
Polk shot 42.6 percent from the floor, 28.6 percent on three-pointers while Eastern Florida shot 35.3 percent from the floor and 23.3 percent from the three-point line.
In the end, it just wasn't Eastern Florida's night.
"I'm just going to say I'm so darn proud of these guys for what they've done all year long," said Eastern Florida head coach Jeremy Shulman.
"I thought they played very hard tonight I just didn't think we came ready to play. I'm going to take the blame for that because we weren't prepared. We didn't guard it like were supposed to guard it.
"We made mistakes down the stretch. These guys played their hearts out but we didn't play well. We haven't played a true meaningful game in 2½ weeks. We haven't played any game in a week-and-half and honestly we showed the ill effects of it.
"My hat goes off to Polk. They pulled it off."
As for the missed free throws and the late foul on VanLier, Shulman didn't' see those as being the determining factor.
"The last few plays had nothing to do with the win or loss of this game, they didn't, they didn't. It was a tough call in the corner. We weren't very disciplined defensively. I would have probably let the contact go but it is what it is. That didn't cost us the game either.
"Two hundred different plays throughout the game are why we are where we are now."
The biggest lead of the game was 37-27 Eastern Florida with 2:25 to play in the first half. The Titans led 41-35 at halftime.
But Polk, the Suncoast Conference runner-up refused to wilt and built a 54-47 lead with 10:31 to play in the game.
Eastern Florida rallied to take a 61-60 lead with 3:42 to go on a McReynolds basket, led 63-60 with 3:15 to go on a Rowe bucket, 64-61 on a Patrick three-pointer with 2:32 to go and 66-63 with 1:49 to go.
Polk improved to 18-14 and plays Chipola College in Friday's semifinal. The other semifinal matches St. Petersburg College and Pensacola State College.