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Rockdale grad leads Gulf Coast back to league title game

Just one more win left to get for Bernard Thompson and the Florida Gulf Coast mens basketball team. The Rockdale graduate scored 14 points and added a career-high-tying six steals in the top seed Eagles’ 69-64 victory over fourth-seeded East Tennessee State in the Atlantic Sun Tournament semifinals Thursday in Fort Myers, Florida.

Gulf Coast (22-11), the defending conference champion, will be searching for another league crown and automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament when it hosts second-seeded Mercer today at 2 pm. The Bears survived third-seeded USC-Upstate 78-75 in double overtime in Thursday’s other semifinal.

The hosts trailed 49-46 before Thompson, a junior guard, converted a lay up and knocked down a 3-pointer at the nine-minute mark to give Gulf Coast a 51-49 lead. The Eagles trailed again later on, at 62-61 when Rashawn Rembert hit a pair of free throws for the last of his team-high 18 points for East Tennessee State (18-15). But a Brett Comer dunk and a 3-pointer by Jamail Jones helped Gulf Coast end the game on an 8-2 run.

Chase Fieler had a huge game for the hosts, scoring 22 points to go along with 15 rebounds.

Gulf Coast will play in the Atlantic Sun final for the third consecutive season. In 2012, the Eagles, in just their second year in Division 1 - and Thompson’s first as a collegiate - lost to Belmont in the title game. Last season, Gulf Coast defeated Mercer in the tournament final, then as a No. 15 seed in its first-ever NCAA Tournament made a miraculous run to the Sweet 16.

Croone, Paladins bow out in opening round

The season came to an end Friday for the Furman mens basketball team.

The top two scorers in the Southern Conference went head-to-head, but Jelani Hewitt of Georgia Southern got the best of Furman’s Stephen Croone in the seventh-seeded Eagles 65-50 victory in the opening round of the league tournament in Asheville, North Carolina.

Hewitt’s Eagles advanced to the quarterfinals where they’ll play No. 2 seed Chattanooga. Despite 18 points from Charles Reddick and 12 points and four assists from Croone, a Newton graduate, 10th-seeded Furman’s season ended at 9-21.

Croone ended his sophomore campaign at the Greenville, South Carolina school averaging a little over 19 points.