The St. Thomas University junior varsity basketball team received a last-minute invitation to the SCF Classic a few days ago when traditionally strong Westchester Community College dropped out.
The Bobcats played hard but may have wished they had something else to do Saturday night after suffering a 136-65 drubbing at the hands of host State College of Florida in opening-round play at Hal Chasey Gymnasium.
The Manatees led 79-27 at halftime in putting up their highest point total of the season. Head coach Brock Erickson slowed his team's pace down in the second half, which wasn't easy to do for SCF, ranked first nationally in scoring average at 106.9 points.
SCF had five players hit double figures with three getting 20 plus points, but the thing pleased Erickson the most was the Manatees 31 assists. It was the fifth game in a row they had at least 24 assists.
"Our guys played hard, and they played the right way, which is something we have been trying to preach," Erickson said. "It was out of hand scorewise, but it's still a college basketball game, and there are college coaches in the stands. We wanted to make sure our guys are doing the right thing. We know only one way to play, which is fast, but we slowed it down in the second half and worked on some things. We were supposed to play Westchester, and we had to do whatever we could to find another team."
SCF was led by its big man, 6-7 Obinna Oleka, who scored 27 points by hitting 12 of 13 shots and pulled down a game-high 12 rebounds. Savad Garner and Devon Hodges had 22 points each.
Denzel Myers chipped in 14, and Anders Hass had 11 with a team-high 12 assists. Lakewood Ranch grad Brian Cobb had nine points and was second on his team with seven rebounds.
The Manatees (11-3) dominated every aspect of the game, controlling the boards 41-18, forced 15 turnovers and had 10 steals. SCF shot 76 percent from the field (57-of-75) and limited St. Thomas (2-6) to 59 shots with 25 field goals.
SCF will play Indian River State College (11-1) at 7 p.m. Sunday in a second-round game Indian River's only loss came at home to SCF.
"We were expecting to move onto the second round and we did, but now it gets a lot tougher," Erickson said. "We preach unselfishness and make open shots and get rebounds. We are going to have a tough challenge (against Indian River) with rebounds. For us, Devon Hodges stepped up and played really well. He has been hampered with injuries and to see him get back on track is big. Obinna also did a lot of things well."
In the other first round games, Indian River defeated Marion Military 79-71, ASA (NY) topped Broward 91-73 and Polk State College defeated IMG Academy 67-65.
The semifinals start at 5 p.m. Sunday with ASA facing Polk, followed by the SCF contest. The consolation round starts at 1 p.m. with IMG taking on Broward. At 3 p.m., Marion faces St. Thomas.
The championship game is slated for Monday at 7 p.m.