Eckerd Downs Barry to Claim SSC Tournament Title - Mar 7, 2016
Almost immediately after a disappointing 2014-15 season ended, the returning members of the Eckerd men's basketball team began talking about - and working toward - some ambitious goals for the following year. Two of those goals have now been realized after the Tritons captured the Sunshine State Conference tournament title with a thrilling 87-84 win over Barry on Sunday afternoon in Embry-Riddle's ICI Center. It was the second game in as many days that came down to the final shot. As with Lynn yesterday, Barry had the ball and a chance to tie with a 3-pointer on the game's last possession. And as with Lynn yesterday, Eckerd defended the last-ditch effort strongly enough to make a good shot impossible to take. "We want to be disciplined in that situation," said EC head coach Tom Ryan . "We like to trail the shooters so we're right on them when they stop. If we do what we're supposed to, we won't leave anyone open." As Elvar Fridriksson (6'0''-PG-94, college: LIU Brooklyn)'s shot bounced off the rim and was hauled in by Obi Kyei (6'8''-F-94), the clock hit zeroes and the celebration began for Eckerd's first tournament championship since 2007. "We've never won both [the regular season and tournament championship] in the same year," Ryan said. "We set some new precedents this year. These young men have shown that if you put your mind to it and commit, you can have success." Today, Eckerd (25-6) had success with defense in the first half and with several clutch plays on both ends of the floor in the second half after Barry rallied to take a late lead. First, the defense. EC smothered the Bucs in the first half, forcing the SSC's top offensive team into poor-quality shots on the way to a 42-32 lead at halftime. Barry made good on just 8-of-31 attempts in the first half as open looks were few and far between. "We wanted to make their shots tough," said Ryan. "They're such a good offensive team, we tried to limit their strengths as much as we could. We committed more to it today. Our players were upset with how we defended Barry last time we played." Not unexpectedly, Barry didn't stay cold. The Bucs made adjustments at halftime and slowly chipped away at the Eckerd lead. A 13-3 run pulled Barry within two with 12:30 to play and although the Tritons held onto the lead for the next several minutes, an 11-4 run gave the Bucs their first lead since early in the game at 71-67 with 4:13 left. That's when the Tritons raised their level of play and showed why they deserved the attention they have received all season. Kevin Walsh (6'5''-G) answered with a 3-pointer from the left wing and Obi Kyei (6'8''-F-94) made a mid-range jumper to keep EC within one. Eckerd then forced a miss by Yunio Barrueta (6'6''-G), leading to a foul called while E.J. Moody was shooting a 3-pointer. Moody made all three free throws to put Eckerd back ahead. Walsh and Moody came up huge again moments later as both drained 3-pointers in answer of Barry's Arie Williams (5'9''-PG). Walsh's triple from the right corner with 1:25 remaining gave the Tritons an 82-79 lead for what turned out to be the last lead change of the game. Jerrick Stevenson (6'5''-G/F) sealed the game at the free throw line for Eckerd, making 5-of-6 in the last 22 seconds. His only miss gave Barry a chance to tie with 5.5 seconds left but Fridriksson's attempt wasn't close. Moody led Eckerd with 19 points - 12 in the second half - and dished out seven assists for the second straight game on his way to being named tournament MVP. Stevenson added 18 thanks to a 12-for-15 performance from the free throw line. Walsh scored all 14 of his points in the second half while Drushaun McLaurn (6'5''-F) had 10 points, all in the first half. McLaurn and Ray Darnell (6'6''-F) were named to the all-tournament team. Barrueta, the SSC Player of the Year, led all scorers with 22 points but had to work for them as EC limited him to just 5-of-16 shooting. Williams had 15 off the bench for Barry and it was primarily his shooting late in the game that gave the Bucs a chance to win. But in the end, Eckerd shot the ball a little better when it mattered, and now they'll have a championship to show for it. SSC Tournament Final: Eckerd - Barry 87-84 SSC Tournament Semifinals: Barry - Saint Leo 91-72 Eckerd - Lynn 64-61
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