OT win, victories over ranked teams pivotal to Eagles making state tournament

Freshman guard Jack Doumbia drives against a Gulf Coast defender during Saturday’s overtime victory.
Photo courtesy TCC sports information

TCC Sports Information 

Saturday’s overtime victory over Gulf Coast State was huge for the Tallahassee Community College men’s basketball team. But to find an even more important win will require going back to Nov. 5.

On that date, the Eagles gave first-year coach Rick Cabrera an 89-82 victory over Indian River College. That signature win could be the clincher that puts TCC into the state tournament.

Coupled with last Saturday’s 85-77 win over Gulf Coast State to secure third place in the Panhandle Conference, the Eagles’ victories over ranked teams could determine if they get an at-large spot in the playoffs. 

Here is what’s in the Eagles’ favor: Indian River State is ranked second in the national poll. TCC also holds wins over Chipola and Northwest Florida State, two conference foes that are also nationally ranked. The Eagles are ranked eighth in the most recent NJCAA Region 8 Coaches’ Poll.

The Region 8 FCSAA Tournament will be held on the campus of Northwest Florida State College campus in Niceville, Fla., starting Thursday. 

With Saturday’s win, the Eagles finished the regular season with a 21-9 regular season record. It was their fourth straight victory and left them with a 6-6 conference record. TCC also won 13 of 17 games at home.

Just before the tip, TCC honored its sophomores. They included Mandela Baledrokadroka and Chris Hampton, who were members of the 2021 Panhandle Conference Championship team.

Michael Isler was one of the Eagles’ double-digit scorers Saturday night, finishing with 17 points, seven rebounds, and two steals. Isler played incredibly hard on both ends, forcing turnovers, and leading the Eagles in transition. 

Saturday night’s game was the third matchup between TCC and Gulf Coast State, with the teams splitting the first two games. The Eagles led by as many as 21 points in the first half, but Gulf Coast State trimmed that deficit to 13 going into the break. TCC scored 47 points in the first half, its highest first-half output since Dec. 6, when the Eagles put up 48 at home against Bishop State Community College. 

The Commodores stormed all the way back in the second half to force a 72-all tie that sent the game into overtime. 

The game was tied with 1:38 left in the overtime period, but the Eagles started a big run that ultimately ended the game when Dericko Williams was fouled in the paint on a put-back attempt. He converted both free throws, and on Gulf Coast State’s next possession, Isler recorded his second steal of the game and increased the lead to four with a thunderous dunk at the other end. With 38 seconds left, Byron Smith hit a corner trey to increase the lead to eight, putting the game out of reach. 

Chris Hampton, in his 32nd and final game in the Eagle Dome, scored five points in the victory and dribbled out the clock to end the game. Williams was the leading scorer for the Eagles with 19 points, nine rebounds, and two blocks. Isiah Kirby ended the night with 14 points, five rebounds, and two steals.

 


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