The Eastern Florida State College men's basketball team will be playing for a national championship for the first time in program history on Saturday night in Hutchinson, Kansas.
The Titans used a 13-5 run in the final five minutes of the game to defeat South Plains 77-65 in the NJCAA Division I Men's Basketball National Championship semifinal and move into the final where they will face Hutchinson Community College who beat Northwest Florida State 88-79 in the first semifinal.
"This team – this is a special group of people and I am just ridiculously happy and proud for each one of these guys and for our staff," Eastern Florida State College men's basketball coach Jeremy Shulman said. "South Plains is an unbelievably talented ball club. They were number one in the country for 16 straight weeks for a reason, they are really fantastic. I am just so proud of the guys to have this opportunity to play for a national championship tomorrow."
South Plains jumped out to a 5-0 lead but Austin Awad hit the first of his four 3-pointers of the first half to get the Titans on the board. They would head to the locker room up 33-30.
"The shot felt good in the first half, I was just taking the looks they gave me honestly, in the second half they weren't helping off me at all and it opened up driving lanes for my teammates," said Awad who finished with 15 points.
The second half was tight throughout as South Plains took the lead briefly at 49-48, but Awad hit two free throws to give the Titans the lead for good.
In foul trouble most of the second half, Shaq Carter and Eli Abaev came up big inside time after time as Carter finished with 13 points and nine rebounds while Abaev had 14 rebounds. As a team, the Titans outrebounded South Plains 44-41 and outscored them 28-14 in the paint.
"We want to control our house," said Shulman who calls the paint his house. "I thought we did a great job of that tonight."
Kareem Brewton took over in the second half, scoring 19 of his team-high 26 points in the second half for the Titans who are now 31-5 on the season and heading to the championship game.
"32 has a better Ring to it," Awad said with a smile.
They get the chance to win No. 32 at 8 p.m. EDT. The game will be shown live on efsctitans.com/webcast