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Hopeful Trojans reach win-or-else stage // SPJC also needs help from Polk to win Suncoast Conference title

The members of the St. Petersburg Junior College men's basketball teammust take care of business at South Florida Community College tonight, but they also will have their minds on Manatee Community College.

Should SPJC defeat South Florida and Manatee beat third-place Polk, the Trojans and Manatee would finish the regular season in a first-place tie in the Suncoast Conference.

Should that happen, a tiebreaker - head-to-head competition with the third-place team, Polk - would determine the conference winner and the recipient of an automatic bid into the state junior college tournament March 1-3 in Bradenton.

Because Manatee would have beaten Polk twice and SPJC has split its two regular-season games with Polk, Manatee would be declared conference champion.

That would leave SPJC to fight for the other state-tournament berth with the remaining six conference teams - actually five teams, because Lake-Sumter Community College has withdrawn from the Suncoast Conference tournament.

Above all, "We've got to win" against South Florida, SPJC coach Jack Coit said.

A 91-79 win over Lake-Sumter Thursday - a game in which six Trojans scored in double figures - gives SPJC a strong push into its final game.

That also broke a recent pattern of games in which the Trojans started slowly and came on strong in the second half.

Should Manatee win the conference, SPJC would be host for all of its SC tournament games but would not learn the tournament schedule until Sunday.

The winner of the tournament, like the conference champion, receives a berth into the state tournament, a qualifying tournament for the Southeast Regional.

The last time the St. Petersburg Junior College men's basketball team played in the state junior college tournament, the Beatles had not given up live performances.

The year was 1966.

Eckerd facing must games: With three games left heading into a game at Saint Leo on Friday, the Eckerd women's basketball team faced an ultimatum in their effort to qualify for the 1990 Sunshine State Conference tournament, Feb. 26-27 at Rollins College: win all of their remaining games.

Three more wins would give Eckerd the edge for fourth place and the final berth in the tournament.

It won't be easy. The team received the news Wednesday that coach Bob Nichols' wife had been in a serious automobile accident thay day in Ohio and he was flying out of town immediately.

The Tritons are being coached by men's basketball assistant Tom Ryan.

"It's a long shot," Eckerd athletic director Bill Thornton said of the tournament chances, "but we're still in there."