The TFC Eagles hosted region foes Johnson University (FL) and Clearwater Christian College on January 31 and February 1, respectively. Before the weekend’s games, TFC sat at 6-2 in region play, and had won 8 of its last 11 games dating back to mid-December. Of late, the Johnson University (FL) Suns have struggled and traveled to Toccoa without a win in the calendar year. Conversely, Clearwater earned road wins at Piedmont International University and Bob Jones University in the two nights preceding its visit to TFC. On Friday night, TFC comfortably topped Johnson (FL), 75 – 60. The Eagles improved to 8-2 in region play after TFC defeated Clearwater 87 – 78 on Saturday.
The Johnson Suns opened Friday’s game with a 7-0 start, but TFC responded with a 17-0 run and led 17-7 with 12 minutes remaining in the first half. The Eagles would continue to add on to their lead and led by as many as 15 points in the final minutes of the first half. TFC took a 42-29 lead into the locker rooms.
TFC executed on both ends of the court after the intermission and held a 20 point lead midway through the final period. Mindful of another important conference game looming on Saturday, Coach Mehl kept the minutes balanced for the Eagles for the remainder of the game. All Eagles played at least 12 minutes in the comfortable win as the Eagles cruised to a 75-60 victory.
Derek Westfall led the Eagles in scoring with 18 points. Jon Sauls added 15 points on 5-9 shooting from beyond the arc. Cam Williams had missed the Eagles’ win over Trinity College of Florida earlier in the week due to an injury, but returned against the Suns and scored 8 points and grabbed 6 rebounds in 15 minutes of play. Johnson’s Montique Lynch scored a game-high 19 points and grabbed 9 rebounds.
Toccoa Falls sustained its sharp execution on Saturday against Clearwater in the season’s first match up between the long-standing rivals. TFC took command of the game in the early going and converted its full court pressure into transition baskets and open looks from three point range for Jon Sauls and Josh Barrett. TFC held a strong 21-9 advantage with 13 minutes remaining in the first half. The Eagles led by as many as 16 in the first half, but Clearwater cut the lead to 40-29 at the half.
In the second half, Clearwater chipped away at the TFC lead and cut the deficit as close as 6 points, but the Eagles never lost control and rebuilt a 12 margin on the strength of big men Cameron Williams and Derek Westfall. The Cougars struggled to match up with Williams, who scored 20 of his 24 points in the second half. The pesky Cougars continued their comeback effort and converted clutch shots late in the game, but were forced to stop the clock by sending TFC to the free throw line. Williams, Josh Barrett, and Donavan Smith converted their chances from the “charity stripe” to ice the game and helped top the Cougars 87-78.
Said Coach Mehl of the win, “This is a huge win for us. Clearwater is a great team with talented players who’d just won two huge close games the two nights before they came in here. We knew we’d have to work hard to stop their momentum. We were able to do that with defense early and our shooters hit some big shots. Then our big men were able to close things out for us in the second half. I’m proud of the way our guys kept their composure down the stretch and stayed focused on keeping it simple–getting stops and rebounds and knocking down free throws. Tonight’s game definitely made us a better team.”
The aforementioned Williams led TFC with 24 points on 8-10 shooting from the line. Williams grabbed a game-high 12 boards. Josh Barrett scored 21 points and added 7 rebounds and 6 assists. Sauls and Westfall each finished with 11 points, and Westfall contributed 7 rebounds. Donavan Smith added 9 points in the win.
Clearwater also finished with four players in double digits. Mike Key led all scorers with 30 points. Key also had 9 rebounds, 5 assists and 5 blocks. Erik McRae added 15 points, and Eddie Moralobo and Colin DeHate added 13 and 10 points, respectively.
After starting the season with a young team facing an extremely tough mix of NCAA Division I, NCAA DIII, and NAIA teams, the Eagles have matured and are 10-3 in their last 13 games and 8-2 in region play.
NCAA DIII Sewanee University will travel to Toccoa on February 4 and look to disrupt TFC’s momentum. Tuesday’s game will tip off at 7:00 PM.