LAKELAND - Evansville bound!!
Florida Southern used a career-high 25 points from junior guard Dylan Travis (Omaha, Neb.), including 21 in the second half and a double-double of 15 points and 11 rebounds from senior forward Bubby Johnson (Waldorf, Md.) here Tuesday evening to help the No. 1 seed and top-ranked Moccasins to an 88-80 victory over No. 6 seed Lynn in the championship game of the NCAA Division II South Regional Tournament in front of a standing room only crowd of 2,247 at Jenkins Field House.
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With the victory, the Mocs, who set a new school record with its 33rd win of the season, secured its 10th region title in the program's history and its second in the last three seasons as FSC also won the South Region title in 2013 with a 90-88 victory over Alabama-Huntsville.
"I thought it was a heck of a college basketball game tonight," Moccasin head coach Linc Darner said in the postgame press conference following his team's 22nd consecutive victory. "I thought both teams played very well tonight. Lynn came into the game playing extremely well and I thought we came in playing well and I thought we made just enough plays to get the win."
FSC will open up play in the 2015 Division II Elite Eight next Wednesday, March 25 with a 7 p.m. Eastern game against East Region Champion Southern New Hampshire (24-7) in the third of four national quarterfinals at the Ford Center in Evansville, Ind. Southern New Hampshire, who is the No. 2 seed from the East Region, earned its seventh Elite Eight appearance thanks to its 75-58 win Tuesday night over No. 5 seed Southern Connecticut State in the championship game.
Tuesday's match-up with Lynn was the fourth of the season between the two Sunshine State Conference foes as the Mocs won all four meetings this season, including both of match-ups in the postseason.
"It was a battle. It is always tough to beat a team three times in a season, let alone four times in a season," Darner added.
In addition to Travis' 25 points and Johnson's sixth double-double of the season and second of the NCAA Tournament, senior All-American guard Kevin Capers (Winter Haven, Fla.) tallied 24 points in 35 minutes of action to be recognized as the South Regional Tournament's Most Outstanding Player.
Capers, who extended his double digit scoring streak to 21 consecutive games, was joined on the South Region All-Tournament Team by Johnson, Lynn senior guard Aaron Harrison, Lynn junior guard Fred Landers and West Georgia sophomore guard Deonte Stocks.
Tuesday's win was one that the Mocs had been focused on all season after suffering a loss in the quarterfinals of last year's South Regional Tournament to Tuskegee.
"We talked about it all year and we were determined to win this game tonight," Moccasin senior guard Tyler Kelly. "We had a bad taste in our mouth after last year. We just want to keep it going."
Lynn, who finished the season with 21-10 record after being picking to finish ninth in the Preseason SSC Coaches' Poll, opened the second half on a 14-9 run to cut FSC's 42-34 halftime lead to 51-48 following a fast break lay-up from Harrison, who was one of two Lynn players to score 20 or more points as he finished his collegiate career with 20 points.
The Mocs, though, would respond with a 7-0 run capped by a Travis 3-pointer to push the Mocs lead to 58-48 with 14:12 remaining in the game. After Lynn cut the lead back to six points at 58-52, Travis scored five straight points, including hitting a trey with 11:27 left in the game to give the Mocs a 63-52 lead.
FSC's lead would grow to as much as 12 points following a lay-up from Johnson with 9:01 left in the contest. Johnson's bucket gave the Mocs a 69-57 lead.
"I'm not ready for my season to end yet," Capers said. "I was very determined to win this game. That why when you look at me (tonight) I was yelling at Bubs telling him to 'finish.' It's that passion because is all I want to do is win."
The Fighting Knights wouldn't go away with a fight as they used a 12-4 run capped by seven consecutive points from David Johnson to draw Lynn within four points at 73-69 with 5:18 remaining.
Johnson finished the game with 18 points off the bench, including scoring 15 of them in the second half for Lynn.
FSC would have one final run left in them as they answered Lynn's flurry with a 9-2 scoring spree of their own to push its lead to 82-71 with 3:01 left in the game. The run began with a 3-point play from senior guard Tyler Kelly (Pickington, Ohio) and was capped by five consecutive points from Travis.
"Our bench has played a vital role in our success this season. We expect those guys to come in the game and score and contribute," the Mocs coach added. "Tonight, Dylan really played well and came in and hit some shots."
After two straight baskets from Ben Berry, who led the Fighting Knights with 22 points and added nine rebounds, dropped FSC's lead to 82-75, Travis would score the Mocs final six points, including hitting four free throws in the final minute to hold off Lynn and earn the victory.
Along with Berry's 22 points, Harrison's 20 points and Johnson's 18 points, Landers added 13 ponts and nine boards in the setback.
"As a fan, I'm sure it was a heck of game to watch," Lynn head coach Jeff Price said following the game. "You've got to give a ton of credit to Florida Southern. They're just a fantastic team that can hurt you in so many ways. I think they have a chance to win the whole thing."
On the night, the Mocs shot 46 percent from the field and 33 percent from the 3-point line and were 19-for-23 (82.6 percent) at the free throw line, while Lynn shot 44 percent from the floor and 32 percent from downtown, but struggled at the free throw line as they shot 40 percent (6-for-15) for the game.
"Free throwing shooting and our ability to limit turnovers against their defense were two of the big keys for us getting the win tonight," said Darner, who is now 215-72 in his ninth season at the helm of the Mocs.
The Mocs forced Lynn into 14 turnovers that led to 21 Moccasin points and the Fighting Knights were only able to block two shots as they entered the game averaging a Division II best 6.2 blocks per game. FSC had just 11 turnovers against Lynn's defense.