Central Florida outlasted a rugged St. Johns River team Monday night in a Mid-Florida Conference tournament semifinal game, finally putting away the Vikings in the final minutes and securing an 80-70 win.
The victory puts CF in the MFC tournament championship game against Santa Fe, 77-61 winners over FSC-Jacksonville at Gainesville in the evening's other semifinal game. Longtime rivals CF and Santa Fe play at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday on the Patriots' home court.
Ricardo Ratliffe notched a double-double with 21 points and 14 rebounds, both game highs. Four other Patriots joined him in double figures: Justin Cecil scored 14 points, including 4 makes from 3-point range; Slobodan Miljanic continued his late-season surge with 12 points off the bench; and Josh Proctor and Darius Nesmith added 10 points apiece.
CF (25-6) stretched a seven-point halftime lead to 17 with a 14-4 run to start the second half before the reliably competitive SJR squad cut the Patriot advantage to 4 with 1:30 to play. Late stops and free throws delivered the win for the home team.
A win Tuesday puts the Patriots in the FCCAA State Tournament as the MFC's second seed. CF would face Panhandle Conference champion and state No. 1 Northwest Florida State on Wednesday, March 3, at 7 p.m. at Chipola College in Marianna.
Visit the CF Patriots YouTube channel for highlights of the Patriots' victory.