It may be small college basketball, yet it is no place for the meek. Stand still and you may get run over.
Eckerd College and the University of Tampa delivered that message loud and clear Saturday night in the semifinals of the Sunshine State Conference tournament.
Eckerd held North Florida to no field goals and three free throws in the closing 9:46 of the second half when it staged a 17-3 rally to oust the Ospreys 70-47 and advance to the SSC tournament championship game for the first time.
Tampa trailed Saint Leo 17-6 early, closed the gap to 20-13, then went on a 29-0 run, holding the Monarchs scoreless for 11:05 late in the first half on its way to a 82-70 victory.
Eckerd (15-12) and UT (22-7) square off in the SSC championship game at UT's Bob Martinez Sports Center 2:30 p.m. today. The winner earns an automatic berth in the NCAA Division II tournament, which begins Tuesday.
"Our kids played awful hard on defense, but it was the fatigue factor, probably not the defense in the end there," Eckerd coach Jim Harley said. "Their shots just didn't fall out there."
North Florida (15-13) missed its last 14 shots and shot 28 percent (17-of-60) for the game.
Rodney Chatman paced Eckerd with 13 points. Kerwin Thompson added 11 and Paul Kinsella 10 points and a game-high 10 rebounds.
Saint Leo (15-13) darted to an 8-0 lead and increased it to 17-6 in the first seven minutes. Then the Spartans scored 29 unanswered points.
Devon Chambers made a layup and two-time SSC player of the year DeCarlo Deveaux hit two three-pointers to give UT a 21-20 lead. The Monarchs missed 13 consecutive shots before Corey Donley converted a three-point play 37 seconds before halftime.
"That was probably the most unbelievable run I've ever seen," Saint Leo coach Todd Smyly said.
Deveaux led all scorers with 21 points.
_ DAVE BRACKMAN