Tuesday, March 07, 2017
Eagles Repeat as ASUN Champs
The game had a true championship flavour. At opposite ends of the court, school bands assembled in the stands to play bright and sassy tunes. Cheerleaders, dance teams and mascots took the floor to stoke the fires. For more than an hour, players from both teams practiced shooting from long range, and from the paint. The public seating area filled quickly, resulting in a record crowd of 4 711. It was the noisiest place I have ever been in my life, except for the Slash concert in downtown Belleville.
The Dirty Birds, with "Wings Up"
I sit under the basket at the FGCU students' section. They are affectionately known as the “Dirty Birds”. They spend the entire game trying to unnerve the opposition. Some of their comments are hilarious, some quite biting. With five minutes left, and with the Eagles holding a substantial lead, they chant, “Season's Over”!
In the first half, shots were either falling short, or clanking off the iron. They had only made one shot from 8 attempts from three point range. Even with their twin towers under the hoop-Demetris Morant and Marc-Eddy Norelia, they were being outrebounded by the Ospreys. It did not look good heading into the second half.
Coach Joe Dooley, in his fourth season with the Eagles, commented: “We were a little bit tight in the first half, but it was a great college atmosphere. I thought the fans were terrific, and they really got us going in the second half. We figured it out and started making plays.”
With less than five minutes gone in the second half, the Eagles had retaken the lead by three points, and gained some momentum. A Norelia block at one end, followed by a three point shot by Christian Terrell extended the lead to 12 points, from which the Ospreys could not recover. The dagger dashed their efforts.
The Eagles continued their man-to-man defence throughout the game, even in the forecourt, frustrating the Ospreys, often resulting in turnovers. The Ospreys elected to play zone defence the entire game.
Brandon Goodwin, previously announced as the “ASUN Newcomer of the Year”, was named tournament MVP after the game. Were it not for the efforts of the big men-Norelia, Morant, Simmons, and Mickle, the Eagles might not be awaiting the draw for their NCAA selection next Sunday. Goodwin and the other smaller players did contribute, but it was the play of the giants in the second half that made the difference. They outscored the Ospeys 20-6 in the second half on shots in the paint.
The Ospreys had succeeded in the first half by making half of their shots. The smothering defence of the Eagles held them to an 18% shooting percentage in the second half, just not good enough. From three point range, the Ospreys shot a dismal 7.1%. The Eagles lead the nation in points scored in the paint.
Five of the players on the Eagles finished in double figures, and the nine dunks the team recorded surpassed the mark established by the original “Dunk City” team that advanced to the Sweet Sixteen round of the NCAA final tournament.
Spring training baseball is in full swing here in Fort Myers. The Twins and the Red Sox are the hosts in this area, with the Tampa Bay Rays not far north up the coast.
At a recent FGCU Eagles game, Red Sox players were invited to throw the T shirts into the crowd. They then spent some time after the game shooting hoops, just like in high school, according to David Price. On Thursday, the Eagles are slated to throw out the first pitch at the Red Sox game.
The Everblades continue to lead in the ECHL. They continue to get stellar goaltending from Anthony Peters. They play tomorrow night at the Germian Arena in Estero.
The Leafs play in Florida next week, trying to nail down a playoff spot. It is on our agenda to catch that game with our grandson Hunter. A great time for sports in SW Florida!!
March 7, 2017