By Josey Diaz
For the second year in a row, the FSW Bucs reached the NJCAA national tournament with an at-large bid, received a first-round bye, won a game in the round of 16, and lost in the quarterfinals.
This year’s squad had entered the tournament with a stellar 29-2 record, falling each time to Northwest Florida State, the No. 1 seed in the tournament. But on a cold-shooting night with injured Charles Manning Jr. on the bench, the Bucs struggled to score and rimmed out two potential game-winning shots as time expired in overtime.
They lost 67-66 to Coffeyville Community College on March 21.
“We had a great season despite not achieving our ultimate goal of winning a national championship,” said Eric Murphy, head coach of the Buccaneers. “I am very proud of our team. Winning 30 games and a conference championship aren’t easy things to do every year.
Manning was injured late in the Bucs’ 77-71 win over Indian Hills Community College March 20. It was win number 30 for FSW. The team declined to elaborate on the nature of Manning’s injury. Roy Allen, sports information director, said only that Manning could not play against Coffeyville, but did not have a long-term injury.
The Bucs’ final game of the year started slowly, with both teams making only a third of their shots. The Bucs went on an early run but Coffeyville cut the lead to 32-31 at the half.
In the second half FSW didn’t make their first field goal until four minutes in. Coffeyville wasn’t doing any better. By the 16 minute mark the game was tied at 35. The first six minutes of the half had FSW shooting just 1 for 7 while committing three turnovers, but their defensive effort came up big by keeping Coffeyville from capitalizing. With 14 minutes left, the Bucs trailed just 38-36.
A back-and-forth game throughout, FSW held a 4-point lead at 45-41 with 10:45 remaining. By 6:49 to go, the Bucs had given up five points to Coffeyville, who hung onto the lead until a foul on a 3-point attempt gave the Bucs three free points at the line.
The score was now 55-53 in FSW’s favor, and remained that way with under four minutes to go.
At this time, FSW had the ball and attempted to call a timeout, but the officials failed to blow the whistle, allowing Coffeyville to steal the ball and drain a three on the other side the court, 3:30 remaining. With 1:58 left, Coffeyville took a 5-point lead, their largest of the game.
At the line, the Bucs cut the Ravens lead to 2 points with under a minute to go and picked up an offensive rebound off a second free throw miss to start a wild 30 seconds of action.
FSW attempted to score a 3-pointer to take the lead and missed. They snared the offensive rebound, and passed it back out to the arc for another three. That shot was off as well, but the Bucs snatched another offensive board and Destin Barnes scored to tie the game at 60 with 27 seconds left. Coffeyville missed a game-winning attempt, sending the game into overtime.
FSW started overtime with a quick three pointer, but both teams struggled to score over the next two minutes. Another three by FSW had them up 66-61 with 2:35 to go.
The Ravens responded with a 3-pointer on the other end. With one minute remaining in the game, an FSW turnover gave Coffeyville a chance to take the lead on the fast break. They converted for a one-point lead. With 14 seconds left, the Bucs brought the ball up the floor. With 8 seconds left, they missed a good look for the win, but corralled another offensive rebound.
The team’s last shot from the corner failed to fall, giving Coffeyville the win, 67-66
FSW’s 34-percent shooting and 66 points both marked their second lowest production of the season. FSW also managed just 59 percent from the free throw line, their weakest effort since the opening game of the season. Despite 14 turnovers, their defense kept them in the game.
The game was close until the end, like all three FSW losses in 2019. The three games were decided by a total of six points.
“I think our team showed a lot of character on Thursday night,” Murphy said. “To be in a position, like we were, to win the game without one of our best players shows you what kind of team we had this year.”