Eastern Florida State Men Fall in Second Round of NJCAA National Tournament

By  //  March 17, 2016

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They played hard and they played well. But in the end, the Eastern Florida State College Titans simply couldn't hold off Ranger, Texas in the second round of the NJCAA Men's National Basketball Championship tournament in Hutchinson, Kansas Wednesday night. (EFSC image)

They played hard and they played well. But in the end, the Eastern Florida State College Titans simply couldn’t hold off Ranger, Texas in the second round of the NJCAA Men’s National Basketball Championship tournament in Hutchinson, Kansas Wednesday night. (EFSC image)

HUTCHINSON, KANSAS – They played hard and they played well. But in the end, the Eastern Florida State College Titans simply couldn’t hold off Ranger, Texas in the second round of the NJCAA Men’s National Basketball Championship tournament in Hutchinson, Kansas Wednesday night.

The Rangers outscored the Titans 14-4 in the final five minutes to pull away for an 87-74 victory and end the season for sixth-seeded EFSC.

Freshman C.J. Jackson led the way for the Titans (27-5) with 23 points and four assists. Sophomore B.J. Gladden had a monster game with 16 points and 16 rebounds. Kareem Brewton had 14 points and three steals.

EFSC got off to a great start, opening up a 17-6 lead early in the first half following a basket by Kareem Brewton. However, the Rangers kept chipping away at the lead and would eventually come all the way back, setting up a nip-and-tuck game that featured a number of momentum swings.

A 3-pointer by Jalen Glover put the Titans up 34-33, but the Rangers would answer behind their big gun, Jordan Geist, to open up a five-point lead.

Another EFSC 3-pointer, this one by C.J. Jackson – his fourth of the first half — cut the Rangers lead to 42-40 in the closing moments. However, it was the Rangers who finished strong, scoring the final five points of the half to take a 47-42 lead at the break.

"So proud of the effort of my guys tonight, and all season long," Titans coach Jeremy Shulman said. "It's a special group of guys, special team. They battled their hearts out all night. Things just didn't go our way. (EFSC image)

“So proud of the effort of my guys tonight, and all season long,” Titans coach Jeremy Shulman said. “It’s a special group of guys, special team. They battled their hearts out all night. Things just didn’t go our way. (EFSC image)

Once again, the Titans made an early run in the second half, grabbing a 60-59 lead on a basket by Brewton.

Back came the Rangers, re-taking the lead on a 3-pointer by Josh Simmons with about 10 minutes left and the Titans would trail by various margins the rest of the way. Every time they tried to make a run, the Rangers would have an answer.

Brewton’s basket with 4:56 remaining pulled the Titans within three at 73-70, but that’s when the momentum swung heavily in the Rangers’ favor. The dagger came with around three minutes remaining when Geist just got off a 3-pointer to beat the shot clock … and it went in, pushing the Rangers lead to 80-72.

EFSC, which won its fourth straight FCSAA Southern Conference championship and climbed as high as No. 4 in the national rankings, finished the season with a two-game losing streak. The Titans were upset by Tallahassee in the first round of the NJCAA Region 8/FCSAA Tournament, but received one of four at-large bids into the national tournament.

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It was their second straight appearance in Hutchinson.

“So proud of the effort of my guys tonight, and all season long,” Titans coach Jeremy Shulman said. “It’s a special group of guys, special team. They battled their hearts out all night. Things just didn’t go our way.

“But it wasn’t for a lack of effort or a lack of heart. Amazing group. And they accomplished absolutely special things.”

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