They call it the beautiful game. And the Eastern Florida State College men's basketball team has used it to win its second straight Mid-Florida Conference championship and earn another trip to the FCSAA State Tournament.
The Titans head to the postseason on a nine-game win streak since a home loss against Daytona State College that proved to be a turning point for the team.
"I think it was a lot of things, but more than anything that was the wake up that we needed to recognize we had to win games with defense and rebounding," Eastern Florida State College men's basketball coach Jeremy Shulman said. "Before that we would win some games with defense and some games with offense and sometimes because of rebounding. But after that game, it just dialed in to needing to be an elite defensive team, an elite rebounding team to reach our goals."
And the beautiful game was born. In the past nine games, the Titans have been one of the best teams in the nation in the two months defensively, holding opponents to 62.1 points per game. They have also outrebounded opponents in seven of those nine games and outrebounds opponents by an average of 14.3 rebounds per game which is 26th in the nation.
"I just couldn't be more proud of this team, it is amazing what this group of guys has done, we have bonded together and really bought into the extreme," Shulman said. "It is unbelievable what this group has accomplished and hopefully there is a lot left to accomplish."
For the seventh straight season, the Titans enter the FCSAA State Tournament as conference champions, but this trip is a bit different for Shulman.
"It's as special as any, all of the championships have been special but I have told the guys that because we had to do it differently, people thinking all year that we are down, we aren't the typical Eastern Florida team, I have heard it all year so for us to win this championship and advance to the state tournament with this group has been as special as any of them," Shulman said.
He hopes that playing the beautiful game will lead to his first FCSAA State Tournament title next week in Ocala. The men will open the state tournament at 8 p.m. Thursday against the State College of Florida Manatee-Sarasota.