Eagles storm back to upset No. 4 Eastern Florida State

Photo courtesy of Tom Hagerty, Polk State College
Photo courtesy of Tom Hagerty, Polk State College

OCALA, Fla. (March 2, 2016) - Tallahassee Community College's men's basketball team rallied from a 21-point, second half deficit to knock off nationally-ranked Eastern Florida State College, 76-67, in Wednesday's quarterfinal round of the 2016 NJCAA Region 8/FCSAA State Division I Men's Basketball Championship. 

Tallahassee (20-11) advances to Friday's 3 p.m. semifinal against Daytona State College. For the moment, Eastern Florida State's season has come to an end though the Titans (27-4), who are ranked fourth in the NJCAA Division I Men's Basketball Poll and No. 1 in the NJCAA Region 8 Men's Basketball Coaches' Poll, are in a good position to grab one of four at-large berths to the NJCAA Tournament.   

With 17 minutes remaining in Wednesday's game, advancing to Friday seemed increasingly unlikely for Tallahassee. Eastern Florida State, who led 42-32 at the intermission, scored the first 11 points of the second half to grab a 53-32 lead. 

When Djordje Beronja banked in a shot at the 14:22 mark, the Titans' lead was still 19, 57-38. What happened from that point forward will go down as one of the greatest comebacks in Tallahassee's 25-year history as a member of the NJCAA. 

A putback by Austin Grimes started a brief 7-0 run that pulled the Eagles within 13, 57-44, with 12:38 remaining. Eastern Florida State answered momentarily, scoring the next five points – a three-pointer by Southern Conference Player of the Year C.J. Jackson and a basket by Kareem Brewton to regain a 62-44 lead at the 11:27 mark. 

Tallahassee held Eastern Florida State to one field goal – and just five points total – the rest of the game. Meanwhile, the Eagles' caught fire from the field. 

Jahvaughn Powell knocked down three three-pointers, part of a 13-0 run that pulled Tallahassee within 62-57 with 7:55 remaining in the game. After Brewton scored for Eastern Florida State, another putback by Grimes ignited a decisive 14-0 run. 

This time, it was Rashad Lewis who dialed up the long ball. His three-pointer at the 3:39 mark put Tallahassee in front, 66-64, the Eagles' first lead since Daishon Smith opened the game with a three-pointer. Immediately after the basket, Eastern Florida State's Austin Awad was whistled for a technical foul, and Lewis sank both free throws to increase the Eagles' lead to four. 

After both sides swapped empty possessions over the next two minutes, Lewis made another three-pointer, his third of the second half, to put Tallahassee in front 71-64 entering the game's final minute. 

Eastern Florida State pulled to within four with 44 seconds remaining, but the Eagles knocked down 5-of-6 free throws to seal the game. 

Powell scored 26 points to lead Tallahassee. Lewis added 15 and Grimes, 11. 

Eastern Florida State used of a couple of big runs of its own to take control of the game during the first half. 

The Titans answered Smith's game-opening three-pointer with a 12-0 run and scored 17 of the next 19 points overall to lead 17-5 with 14:04 remaining in the first half. 

Trailing 20-9, Tallahassee scored seven unanswered to pull within four but Eastern Florida State responded with an 11-0 run and led 31-16 at the 8:32 mark. The Titans' lead hovered around double-digits for the remainder of the half. 

Tallahassee won despite being outrebounded 57-34 and shooting just 15-of-28 from the free throw line.