DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (March 5, 2017) – Sunshine State Conference Freshman of the Year Connor Mckim hit a three-pointer with 3.1 seconds left to give Rollins a 71-70 win over Palm Beach Atlantic and the 2017 SSC Tournament Championship.
The Tars (21-10) earn the SSC’s automatic bid into the NCAA Division II South Region Tournament and will ride an eight-game winning streak into the bracket.
Rollins trailed by 10 with less than eight minutes to play and was down six with 1:34 left.
Jeff Merton was named the Tournament MVP and led the Tars with 19 points and a career-high 12 rebounds. Eric Castaneda added 12 points on a 4-of-6 night from long range. Joey Galvis added nine points, eight assists and three steals while Mckim also scored nine. Both Galvis and Mckim joined Merton on the All-Tournament team.
Bakari Warthen led Palm Beach Atlantic (16-13) with 21 points and seven rebounds while Milos Kostic posted 21 points and six assists. Malek Barber totaled 10 points and six rebounds off the bench.
The conference championship is the Tars’ fifth in program history and first since 2011. Rollins will be making its 14th overall and second-straight NCAA Tournament appearance. The Selection Show is slated or 10:30 p.m. on NCAA.com.
HIGHLIGHTS AND HALF-BY-HALF ANALYSIS First Half l The Tars jumped out to an 8-1 lead and didn’t allow PBA’s first field goal until the 15:29 mark. Castaneda pushed the Rollins advantage to 13-4 only to have the Sailfish close to 17-15 at the midway points of the first. Merton then started to have his way in the paint as Rollins pulled out to a 37-21 lead with 3:28 left in the half. PBA went on an 8-0 run to close the first and shrunk the Tars lead to 37-29 at intermission.
Second Half l Rollins led 46-40 with 14:01 to play before PBA rolled off an 18-2 run and put the Tars down 58-50 with 7:30 to play. Rollins was just 1-of-6 from the field with three turnovers in the span. Led by Merton and Castaneda’s hot hand, Rollins climbed back and got to within 70-64 with 1:34 left. Sam Philpott hit two clutch free throws and, after a defensive stop, Mckim got a pair at the line to make it a 70-68 score with 48 ticks left. PBA turned the ball over on its possession and Merton drew a foul on the other end. He missed the front end of a 1-and-1, but a jump ball was called on the rebound between Mckim and Warthen and the arrow kept it Tars ball. After a timeout, head coach Tom Klusman drew up a play, but PBA’s defense tipped the pass and the loose ball went to Galvis, who found Mckim wide open in the corner for the game winner. PBA had one last look at the buzzer but the shot went long.
GAME NOTES • The Sunshine State Conference Championship was the fifth in Rollins history. • Rollins improves to 5-7 all-time in SSC Championship games. • Rollins is now 26-5 all-time against Palm Beach Atlantic • Jeff Merton (MVP), Joey Galvis and Connor Mckim were named to the SSC All-Tournament Team. • Rollins is now 7-7 all-time as the No. 3 seed. • Sam Philpott has hit at least one field goal in each of the last 39 games. Jeff Merton now as 1,221 career points, passing Myk Brown and Mike Veith for 25th on the Tars all-time scoring list. Joey Galvis is now 12th on the Tars all-time steals list with 131. • Tom Klusman is now 674-392 in 37 years as the Tars head coach.
NEXT UP FOR THE TARS The 2017 NCAA Division II South Region Selection Show is set for 10:30 p.m. Sunday, March 5 on NCAA.com. Rollins earned the Sunshine State Conference’s automatic qualifier by way of winning the tournament championship.