BRADENTON -- On a night of disappointment, Blake Harper provided hope for the future.
A walk-on freshman, the State College of Florida guard poured in a career-high 26 points in an otherwise dreary night for the Manatees, who suffered a 111-76 loss to Harcum College (Pa.) Tuesday night at Hal Chasey Gymnasium.
Harcum (13-2), which is about a mile away from Big East power Villanova, had a huge size advantage and an array of deadly 3--point shooters who could hit from all over the court.
But the Bears did most of their damage inside with 24 of 39 field goals coming on layups, put-backs or dunks.
SCF (2-16) had Harper, who averaged 15 points per game at Sarasota Booker last year and never scored more than 22 points in a high school game.
The 6-foot-4 Harper led SCF on the glass with nine rebounds and helped keep the Manatees in the game for the first 13 minutes when they trailed 24-20. But Harcum scored 16 straight points to lead 40-20 with 4:12 left in the first half and pretty much controlled the game from there.
"Blake is a walk-on, but is one of our better all-around guys. He is playing his guts out on offense and defense," SCF head coach Elliott Washington said. "He gives us 100
percent effort and a good attitude. We need more guys on the court who are putting out what Blake Harper is doing for us. Whenever he has gotten an opportunity he has played hard."
Harper shot 7 for 12 from the field and drained 4 of 6 attempts from beyond the arc. He was one of three Manatees in double figures. Gabriel Dos Santos had 16 points and four assists, and LaQuon Kirce chipped in 14 points. Braden River grad Tre' Bryant knocked down two 3-pointers and finished with eight points.
"I got over a mental hump and I am gaining more confidence," Harper said. "When I came here, I didn't know what was going to happen. I just knew I had to work hard and earn respect on the court and off the court. I've always worked on my 3-point shooting. They were a good team, but it was mental. We always have to work hard."
The Bears dominated on the boards, out rebounding SCF 32-20 with 11 offensive grabs to only four for the Manatees. Harcum was 8-23 from beyond the arc and 39-78 overall. SCF was 31 for 70 and 9 for 19 on 3-pointers.
Jordan Goodman, Harcum's 6-9 forward, drained three treys and finished with 21 points. Shevon Thompson, a 6-11 sophomore, led the Bears with 23 points with nearly all of his points coming on layups, dunks and put-backs. He was 6 for 6 in the first half and finished 9 for 10 from the field.
"In game like this the approach is you have to compete every possession regardless of the score. You can't come out and sulk," Washington said. "We had some guys who did that and did not hustle back when they committed a turnover. You have to keep your head up and continue to fight and compete for 40 minutes. At the end of the day hard work and being dedicated to the team concept is going to win out."