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    'Frenzy' starts for Sunshine


    © St. Petersburg Times, published February 25, 2001

    The NCAA has "March Madness." The Sunshine State Conference has "February Frenzy."

    Today begins the first round of the league's basketball tournament. For the Eckerd men's team, expectations are high.

    The Tritons completed a successful regular season by beating Tampa for the second straight time, 67-63 on Wednesday.

    That solidified a No. 2 seed in the conference tournament for Eckerd and gave the squad a 4:15 p.m. opening-round game against No. 7 Saint Leo at the Lakeland Center. The Tritons were 10-4 in Sunshine State play and 20-6 overall.

    Florida Southern earned the top spot with an 11-3 league record.

    The winner of the tourney automatically advances to the NCAA Div. II national tournament.

    There is a possibility of an SSC team earning a national at-large bid. But Eckerd coach Tom Ryan thinks his Tritons need to win the conference tournament to advance.

    "We've kind of been a Jekyl and Hyde team," Ryan said. "We've put ourselves in a position where we have to win the tournament or the season's over."

    If Eckerd could have one game back it would be the 71-68 loss at Saint Leo, a team the Tritons easily handled earlier in the season. Otherwise, Eckerd has had a year to remember, including a sweep of the Spartans and a second-place league finish.

    The Tritons played the best defense of any Sunshine State team. It allowed 59.7 points per game, better than second-place Rollins College by more than four points.

    Dwayne "Tiny" Smith, a Lakewood graduate, led Eckerd in scoring with a 12.5 points average. Clevon Dunbar was second at 12.2. Center Cerwin Thompson has been a big presence inside with 7.6 rebounds per game. Lester Chang Fong, Brian Stapf, Kendrick Wilson and Josef Soderman have been major contributors as well.

    If Eckerd wins today, it would play the winner of Tampa and Barry on Monday night at 6:30. The final is Tuesday night at 8. The Eckerd womens team is the No. 7 seed in the tournament after a 3-11 conference record. The Tritons will play No. 2 Florida Southern today at 11:45 a.m.

    Rachel Thompson and Felecia Felton have been main Eckerd contributors, and they will need to come up big in the tournament for the Tritons to pull off an upset.

    JUNIOR COLLEGE TOURNAMENTS: The St. Petersburg men's team entered Saturday's regular-season finale against Hillsborough Community College with a 13-14 record.

    Hillsborough clinched the top spot in the Suncoast Conference. A win Saturday would give SPJC the second seed.

    The St. Petersburg women (10-15) end their season Saturday. The women play in the Southern Conference, which has no season-ending tournament.

    Palm Beach Community College and Miami-Dade advanced to the state tournament after finishing 1-2 in the league.

    GOLF: The Sunshine State Conference has scheduled its men's and women's tournament for April 16-17 at Lake Jovita Country Club in Saint Leo.

    This is the first time the men and women will be on the same course. Eckerd College has only a men's team.

    ECKERD BASEBALL: Tritons shortstop Justin Loop had a good first week of the season.

    The Pinellas Park graduate hit .333 with a home run and 4 RBI in 21 at bats.

    Pitcher Jordan Gieselman had a good first outing -- 72/3 innings, 5 hits and 4 strikeouts.

    Sunshine State Conf. Basketball Tournament

    WHEN: Today-Tuesday.

    WHERE: Lakeland Center.

    MEN'S SCHEDULE: Today: 9:30 a.m. -- No. 3 Tampa vs. No. 6 Barry; 4:15 p.m. -- No. 2 Eckerd College vs. No. 7 Saint Leo; 4:15 (at Florida Southern) -- No. 5 Rollins vs. No. 4 Lynn; 8:45 -- No. 1 Florida Southern vs. No. 8 Florida Tech. Monday: 6:30 p.m. -- Tampa-Barry winner vs. Eckerd-Saint Leo winner; 8:45 -- Lynn-Rollins winner vs. Florida Southern-Florida Tech winner. Tuesday: 8 p.m. -- Final.

    WOMEN'S SCHEDULE: Today: 11:45 a.m. -- No. 2 Florida Southern vs. No. 7 Eckerd College; 2 p.m. -- No. 3 Florida Tech vs. No. 6 Lynn; 2 (at Florida Southern) -- No. 4 Barry vs. No. 5 Tampa; 6:30 -- No. 1 Rollins vs. No. 8 Saint Leo. Monday: 12:30 p.m. -- Florida Southern-Eckerd winner vs. Florida Tech-Lynn winner; 3:15 -- Barry-Tampa winner vs. Rollins-Saint Leo winner. Tuesday: 5:30 p.m. -- Final.

    ADMISSION: $10 per session, $5 for students. $20 for tournament pass, $10 for students. -- RODNEY PAGE

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