Last week the Santa Fe College men’s basketball team won its first conference title in 10 years.
The Saints (24-5 overall), who finished 12-3 in league play, defeated Polk State College on the road last Tuesday to win the Central Conference Championship. Last Thursday they held a net-cutting ceremony to celebrate.
Santa Fe College averages 80.7 points per game but they are very good defensively, giving up just 64.9 ppg.
Head coach Chris Mowry, who won his fifth title overall at Santa Fe, likes the make-up of his team.
“I think we were really, pretty tough, we really played hard, we defended at a pretty high level in the half court, we rebounded very well in the half court, and offensively we had enough guys who were talented enough to score that on any given night one or two guys were able to step up when a couple of others maybe didn’t have a great night and we had someone who could get us through that game, so our depth really helped us,” said Mowry, who was named the Central Conference Coach of the Year.
They had the Central Conference Player of the Year in guard Bradley Douglas, who led the Saints with 15.3 points per game (ppg), and also averaged 5.2 assists per game, which was fifth in the FCSAA this year.
“He’s really been the heart and soul of our team this year,” Mowry said. “He’s an outstanding competitor. Down the stretch, he’s been playing 40 minutes per game for us. I haven’t taken him out. He creates for us, he scores for us, he leads us, he defends, so he’s been a good leader for us.”
The freshman from Eustis scored double digits in 26 of 29 games, including four games in which he eclipsed 20 points.
“Just being a leader, leading the team, keeping the guys together, getting everyone involved, opened things up for me to do things that I could do,” Douglas said.
Hasan Abdul-Hakim, a 6-foot-7 freshman from Toronto, Ontario, joined Douglas on the first team all conference after averaging 13.1 ppg. He averaged 5.7 rebounds, 2.8 assists per game, and led the team with an average of one block per game.
“He’s just a really talented, skilled basketball player,” Mowry said. “He can play four positions for us, including back-up point guard. He can shoot the ball well. He’s great off the dribble, great creator, really knows how to play the game and defensively blocks shots and rebounds. He’s just a really talented guy.”
Brandon Farmer (10.7 ppg) also made the Central Conference First Team.
Tonight at 8 p.m. (CST), Santa Fe will face nationally ranked Florida Southwestern State College in the quarterfinals of the FCSAA/NJCAA Region VIII State Tournament at Northwest Florida State College’s Raider Arena in Niceville.
Florida Southwestern, which is ranked 16th nationally, is one of four teams in the tournament who are in the top 15 of the NJCAA rankings, along with No. 2 Indian River State College, defending state champions No. 7 Chipola, and No. 11 Northwest Florida State College. Santa Fe and Eastern Florida State College are receiving votes.
The Bucs (23-5) were runners-up in the Southern Conference to Indian River. They led the state in shooting at 50 percent from the field as a team, including second in the state behind the arc (38 percent from 3-point range).
“It’s like the final eight of the NCAA Tournament,” Mowry said. “That’s how good the teams in Florida are.”
Santa Fe, the No. 5 seed, defeated the No. 4 seed Bucs, 83-81, on Nov. 6.
Florida Southwestern is led by All-State Bryant Selebangue. The 6-foot-9 forward led the team in scoring (13.2 points) and rebounding (10.5).
He shot 69 percent from the field this year and finished with 16 double-doubles, including nine straight.
Former Wildwood star Marcus Niblack, a transfer from East Tennessee State, was the team’s second leading scorer (12.7 ppg).
“They’re really talented,” Mowry said. “They have good size. Really our staple all year has been defending the half court, box out, limit them to one opportunity, and then be unselfish on offense and move the ball, get good shots, you’ve got to make them…you’re always here to win a championship you’ve got to be lucky a little bit so we’re going to have to hit a shot go in or have the other team miss a shot, something like that. We’re going to go give it our best shot, I know that.”