It took a full team effort, but the Eastern Florida State College men's basketball team is heading to the FCSAA/NJCAA Region VIII State Tournament Championship Game.
Nine different players scored as the 18th-ranked Titans defeated No. 9 Chipola College 69-62 Friday night to advance to the championship game for the fourth time under head coach Jeremy Shulman.
"These guys were so tough, it is unbelievable how hard the guys competed and competed. We found a way and I am just so proud of them," Shulman said. "With Jalen (Warren) fouling out, we got contributions from Johnny Bernard stepped up playing with an injured hand, Jonathan Ned was phenomenal running the point, Ilija (Stefanovic) … what he did defensively, rebounding and controlling the boards and interior tonight."
With both Warren and Ayo Dada on the bench with foul trouble, the bench stepped up and kept the Titans out front.
Chipola would go on a 10-0 run and eventually cut the lead to one point, 54-53 with 4:25 remaining, but Junior Madut hit a 3-pointer and then Ayo Dada hit one and then Stefanovic grabbed an offensive rebound and put it back in to put the Titans back up six with two minutes remaining.
The Titans would hit six of their eight free throws in the final minute to seal the win.
Dada finished with 15 points while Warren had 13 and Junior Madut finished with 12 points, five rebounds and four assists. The trio of Stefanovic, Ned and Nick Stampley each had seven rebounds as the Titans outrebounded Chipola 46-38.
Eastern Florida State College will try and win its first state championship under Shulman at 7:30 p.m. against Northwest Florida State College who came back to defeat Florida Southwestern 69-68 in the first semifinal.
"Coach (Steve) DeMeo and Northwest Florida may be the No. 1 team in the country, they are really, really, really outstanding but I have to be honest, I would love to cut down the nets here," Shulman said.
Tickets for the championship game are $6 for students and $10 for adults at the College of Central Florida in Ocala. The game will be shown live online at the FCSAA site.