Top-ranked Florida Southern (33-1) defeated sixth-seeded Lynn (21-10) 88-80 in a clash of Sunshine State Conference rivals to win the South Regional championship.
With the victory on Tuesday, the Mocs are headed to the Elite Eight for the first time in two years.
FSC guard Kevin Capers was named as the Most Outstanding Player of the South Regional tournament and he was joined on the All-South Region Team by forward Bubby Johnson.
After the victory against Lynn, Capers expressed why he had been so energized during the game.
“I’m not ready to end my season yet so I was ready to win,” Capers said during the post-game press conference. “Hopefully we get to this national title but I was very determined. That’s why if you look at me I’m yelling at Bubbs (Bubby Johnson), telling him to finish. It’s just the passion because I just want to win. I just don’t want to lose.”
Last year, the Mocs lost to Tuskegee 98-95 in the first round of the South Regional, so this year they wanted to make sure that things were different. Florida Southern guard Tyler Kelly wanted to get the “bad taste” out of their mouth, and Johnson just wanted to pay his team back for all they had done for him.
“I feel like I owe these guys,” Johnson said. “I see how hard they work and I see their legacy here at Florida Southern. Coach Darner gave me a huge opportunity. It’s my fourth school in four years. It got to a point where I didn’t even know if I was going to play basketball anymore. So I feel like I owe these guys so much and I’m just really happy to be able to share success with them and I just want to my name up there. I want to get a national title.”
In the first round of the South Regional, Florida Southern defeated eighth-seeded Benedict (19-12) 89-68 in a game of runs. The Mocs used a 22-5 run in the second half to pull away from Benedict in order to reach the second round of the South Regional tournament.
Student Life invites students to cheer on the Mocs at a viewing party for the national quarterfinal game Wednesday, March 25 at 8 p.m. in Rogers Auditorium.
In the second round, Florida Southern won against fourth-seeded West Georgia (22-9) 84-81 in a game where neither team led by more than nine points. The Mocs were led by Capers (24 points) and their bench (outscored West Georgia 28-18).
In the final round of the South Regional, the Moccasins managed to beat Lynn for the fourth time this season. FSC guard Dylan Travis led the way with 25 points, Capers added 24 points, and Johnson put forth another double-double effort with 15 points and 11 rebounds.
Johnson said that he believes that the home crowd is one reason why they are able to pull out wins in so many close games.
“I feel like Lynn played an amazing game,” Johnson said. “Especially with West Georgia as well, when they’re right there about to make a comeback and our crowd gets behind us after a big shot from Nique [Dominique Williams], or a big shot from Dylan, or he [Capers]goes up and dunks and our crowd feeds into that now. Other teams, they don’t have that because they’re playing on the road.”
Florida Southern will now go on the road in order to begin their journey towards a possible championship. The NCAA Division II Elite Eight begins on March 25 in Evansville, Ind., at the Ford Center.
Florida Southern’s next opponent is Southern New Hampshire, winner of the East Regional championship.
Photo by Wayne Koehler