Friday, March 04, 2011
Tallahassee 59, CF Patriots 49 (MBB)
A sluggish first half for both squads yielded a 24-22 halftime lead for the Eagles, and they pushed that lead to 6 soon after the break. The lead hovered around two or three possessions until the 3-minute mark, when the Patriots cut the lead to 3 on an A.J. Holland free throw. Holland's 3-pointer with 2 minutes to play cut it back to 3, but the Eagles continued to log scoring possessions down the stretch to hold off the Patriots.
Kevin Foster logged a 13-point, 13-rebound double-double in defeat, the only Patriot to reach double figures in scoring. The team was plagued by poor shooting, particularly a 37.5 percent mark from the free-throw line that cost it dearly down the stretch.
The Patriots (25-7) entered the state tournament with legitimate state title aspirations after winning the Mid-Florida Conference going away. The postseason berth was the sixth consecutive for Patriots head coach Tim Ryan and the seventh of his eight-year tenure at CF. Four of those teams, including this 2010-11 edition, have advanced to at least the state semifinals.
CF built a late double-digit lead in its quarterfinal Thursday but struggled to put away Brevard, ultimately escaping with a 59-56 win and advancing to within a game of a state championship shot.
The third-ranked Patriots entered Friday as a slim favorite over fourth-ranked Tallahassee, despite CF's dominant 36-point win over the Eagles on Dec. 11 in Ocala. Tallahassee recovered from that setback to post an 8-4 record in the Panhandle Conference and earn a trip to Marianna, where it earned its vengeance.
While CF will lament its missed opportunities this week, time and perspective will cast this visit to Marianna in a more positive light. With the Patriots taking the court Friday afternoon immediately after the Lady Patriots' semifinal against Pensacola, Central Florida was the only school to advance both its men's and women's teams to the state final four.