BRADENTON -- If the State College of Florida basketball team wants to make it to the state tournament it will have to do it the hard way.
But the Manatees were already hard on themselves blowing a 16-point second-half lead before dropping an 84-81 double overtime contest to Hillsborough CC, Wednesday night at Hal Chasey Gymnasium.
The game was for home court in the Suncoast Conference Tournament opener Monday night between the same two teams. The winner of that game is on the road Tuesday at St. Petersburg College with a berth in the FCCAA State Tournament at stake.
SCF (9-16, 3-6 conference) had four chances to hit a 3-pointer on its last possession of the game, but drew blanks as time ran out.
Hillsborough (12-18, 4-5) took an 84-81 lead with 19.4 seconds remaining on a pair of free throws by Derrian Bell, his only two of the game. SCF came down court and rebounded three straight misses from beyond the arc.
It was a night of missed opportunities for SCF. The Manatees had a chance to push its lead to four points in the first overtime, but missed a free throw and Justin Edwards came down and buried a trey with 16.4 seconds left to send it into another five minute extra session.
Edwards torched the Manatees for 30 points and pulled in a game high 11 rebounds. The 6-8 sophomore, who came into the game averaging nearly 18 points and 6.2 rebounds per game, scored 20 points in the second half when he connected on seven of 12 shots, including three of four from beyond the arc.
His heroics spoiled a big game by SCF’S John Miller, who finished with 25 points, including 15 in the second half and offset a poor shooting night from beyond the arc by the Manatees.
Miller was four for 10 from 3-point land while the rest of the Manatees were a dismal 3 for 12. The only other double figure scorers for SCF were Josh Mason and Da’Verick Hunt with 10 points apiece. Markee Teal led with nine rebounds while Mason and Hunt pulled in eight boards apiece.
“It was a double overtime game with a lot of wear and tear on the body and I think we just lost it,” Miller said. “We got that big lead and we didn’t think it would turn around us. Sometimes you don’t think that stuff happens and we kind of got shocked.”
SCF seemed to be comfortably ahead when Miller hit a trey to give the Manatees a 42-28 lead less than 1:30 into the second half. He picked up his third foul shortly afterwards, was taken out of the game and things began to spiral downward for the Manatees.
In his absence, the Manatees missed 10 of their next 11 shots and turned the ball over five times, including two that were converted into fast break layups by Hillsborough, which finally took the lead at 50-49 with 7:24 left regulation.
SCF had a chance to win the game in regulation when a basket by Odi Onyekachukwu gave the Manatees a 62-60 lead, but a turnover by Mason led to another fast break layup to send the game into overtime.
SCF scored the first basket of the second overtime, but Hillsborough responded with eight unanswered points to take its biggest lead of the game at 77-71 with 2:54 remaining. Miller hit two straight baskets and then Elias Guitierrez drained a trey to cut the deficit to 80-78. Two free throws pushed the lead back to 82-78 and then Derek Robbins hit his only trey of the night after six misses to cut the deficit to one with 21.4 seconds left.
“They came here and won so there is no reason we can’t go down there and win,” Miller said. “We really thought going into this game we were going to win and win big. But things happened. Edwards is a big time player and that’s what big time players do.”
SCF controlled the boards outrebounding Hillsborough 48-38 and had a huge edge on the offensive glass getting 22 rebounds to only 10 for the Hawks. But the visitors converted 19 of 32 from the free throw line while the Manatees were 10 for 15.