By SETH STRINGER
OCALA, FL – Book your flight, NWF State. Hutchinson, Kansas, awaits.
Well, to be fair the Raiders were always bound for the NJCAA Division I National Tournament. But Saturday's 67-58 win over Eastern Florida State in the Region 8 championship ensured they'll do so with an automatic bid.
Yes, Selection Monday should be fun for Steve DeMeo and Co, who secured the program's second straight Region 8 title and fourth in five years.
Résumé-wise, the Raiders' body of work speaks for itself.
A 27-4 record, a 10-3 mark against ranked foes, a fifth straight Panhandle Conference title.
And now a Region 8 crown, replete with a semifinal win over a No. 1-ranked Florida Southwestern program the Raiders trailed by 19 in the second half.
In Saturday's title win, Javion Hamlet dropped a game-high 21 points and dished out eight dimes for NWF State, which led 30-22 at halftime and pulled away late as Eric Vila scored 11 of his 16 points in the second half and the Raiders got timely stop after timely stop.
The eighth-ranked Raiders held the 18th-ranked Titans to 38 percent shooting and sported a 38-31 advantage on the glass.
Ludgy Debaut added nine points and nine rebounds, Chris Duarte chipped in nine points and Noah Morgan had eight points for the Raiders, who now hope to have a repeat of 2015 and cut down their third set of nets in Hutchinson on March 23.
"Goal No. 3 is a national title," said DeMeo, a perfect 2-for-2 on this season's other title goals.