Rollins advances Saturday
The Tars have their second straight Sunshine State Conference championship after downing Eckerd 75-69 Sunday to take the trophy.
Led by Nick Wolf, who won the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player award, and who nailed 26 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in the game, the Tars breezed past their final opponent.
Now Rollins (25-6) will take its show on the road at the NCAA Division II South Region Tournament, facing Florida Southern in the first round at 1 p.m. on Saturday, March 12, in Huntsville, Ala.
The Knights may have dropped their final road game at Marshall on March 5, but they closed out their season at home in style, with a strong 5-2 record in their last seven games leading up to the postseason.
It was a night of heroes as the Knights won their final regular-season home game in spectacular fashion on March 2, holding off SMU for a 51-48 victory. And they did it despite being down as much as 10 points in the second half.
That massive deficit had persisted for much of the game as the Knights (19-9, 6-9) watched their shots miss again and again, while their defense did all it could to hamper the Mustangs.
With only 16 points on the scoreboard at halftime, the Knights had just played their worst half-game all season, entering the second down 23-16.
Then suddenly the Knights caught fire, sparked by perennial hero A.J. Rompza, who started a scoring run with a series of drives into the paint plus a 3-pointer to help pull them from a 10-point deficit to an 11-point lead in less than five minutes.
From there, more than a half-dozen Knights had their moments of heroics, with senior Tom Herzog stealing passes right under the Mustangs’ net to cause breakaways down the court. Early in the game, sophomore Marcus Jordan exploded in the paint, driving for shot after shot to keep the Mustangs guessing. Senior A.J. Tyler buried two long-distance shots during that massive run to give the Knights more breathing room.
Speaking of long distance, Isaac Sosa would bury four of seven 3-pointers to keep the team going in the second half.
But that level of excitement and pressure could only last so long for the Knights, who seemed to tire late in the game, with only Rompza continuing to keep the momentum going.
They would hold on with a 3-point gap that lasted more than 30 seconds, as a wild series of shots by the Mustangs in the closing moments all bounced out, and P.J. Gaynor grabbed the ball to run out the clock.
“We’ve shown a lot of character and heart,” Rompza said after the game.
Rompza would score 10 points, and Sosa led with 17. In a bizarre twist, the Knights shot only 38.1 percent overall, but 44.4 percent from 3-point land. The Knights hit all 11 of their free throws on the night.
On Wednesday, March 9, the C-USA Championship tipped off at press time in El Paso. That tournament will continue until Saturday. Then the Knights will wait to see Sunday if they’re invited to the NCAA Tournament.