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Gulf Coast takes out top-ranked Florida Southwestern

NICEVILLE — Gulf Coast needed a half-court buzzer-beater in triple overtime of its regular season finale just to get into the FCSAA State Tournament in Niceville.

The Commodores needed no such heroics to extend their stay in Niceville for at least one more round.

Cam Holden led four Gulf Coast players in double digits with 15 points as the Commodores (22-7) stunned No. 1 Florida Southwestern State 75-68 to advance to Friday’s semifinals against Central Florida.

It’s just the second loss of the season for the Buccaneers (29-2), who last lost to Snow 81-79 in overtime on Nov. 22.

Florida Southwestern had won 22 in a row since, though the Commodores certainly didn’t play as if they were in awe of the nation’s No. 1 team.


Gulf Coast jumped out to an early 16-8 lead thanks to a 7-0 run capped by a mid-range jumper by Jacolbey Owens and a 3-pointer from Travon Mayo.

The Buccaneers rallied back behind their dynamic backcourt duo of Keon Ellis and Jalen Finch, who combined for 13 first-half points, with a steal and dunk by Simeon Kirkland putting them ahead 29-26 at the break.

A dunk by Ellis pushed the lead out to 44-36 early in the second half, but the Commodores charged back with a pair of threes from Grant Howard to cut it to two, with another triple by Jammy Pierre-Louis putting Gulf Coast up 51-50 with 10:20 to play.
Owens followed with a deep 3-pointer of his own, with Holden scoring four straight on two free throws and a strong driving finish to give Gulf Coast its biggest lead at 60-52.

It was a 10-point margin with 6:20 to play after a transition dunk by Maurice Gordon on a feed from Owens, but Ellis answered with eight straight points followed by a driving bucket by Finch to get the Buccaneers to within two at 68-66 with 2:55 remaining.

Gordon threw down another dunk on a lob pass from Owens to make it 70-66, but Ellis made two free throws to trim the deficit to two with 1:59 to play.

Florida Southwestern got the ball back with 39.2 seconds left and a chance to tie or take the lead, but Ellis forced up a tough, contested jumper that rimmed off and Gordon split a pair of free throws with 24.6 seconds.

Ellis attacked the paint on the Buccaneers’ next possession, but Mayo ripped the ball out of his hands on the way up and Florida Southwestern was forced to foul.

Mayo then knocked down two free throws with 15.3 seconds to make it a two-possession game, with Owens later putting the exclamation point on the win with a breakaway dunk as time expired.

Owens and Gordon each finished with 11 points, followed by Howard with 10 points. Mayo, Davonta Cook, and Kaylein Marzette all scored seven points.

Ellis led the Buccaneers with 23 points on 6 of 17 shooting from the field and 10 of 11 from the free throw line.

Finch finished with 14 points and Berrick JeanLouis had 12 points.

Gulf Coast will play Central Florida at 1 p.m. on Friday. The winner will advance to Saturday’s championship game at 5 p.m.

 

 

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