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Eckerd enjoys sightseeing, some victories

The goal was to build team unity and win a few basketball games.The Eckerd men's and women's squads The Eckerd men's and women's squads succeeded on a recent trip to Puerto Rico.

Both teams traveled together for the San Juan Classic just before Christmas, and both came away with victories and plenty of snapshots.

The men and women defeated Puerto Rico-Cayey and Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras.

Plus, there was an exhibition against American University of Puerto Rico. In between games, there were trips to Old San Juan and the beach for Eckerd.

"It was a good trip," said men's coach Tom Ryan, who spent his free time watching an NCAA Division I tournament taking place in San Juan.

"We didn't get anybody hurt. It wasn't the best basketball we've ever played. It was a little sloppy," Ryan said. "But I'm sure the guys had other things on their minds."

Eckerd owned a 10-1 record after the Puerto Rico trip.

There's a game Tuesday against Nova Southeastern, then the fun really begins for the Tritons.

They begin a stretch of 14 straight Sunshine State Conference games to end the season.

The first league matchup is Jan. 6 at home against Tampa, which is No. 1 in the NCAA Division II South Region poll.

"We're going to have to be ready," Ryan said. "We start right up against Tampa, as the luck of the draw would have it."

In order to stay in the upper half of the Sunshine State Conference, Eckerd is going to need continued contributions from a number of players.

Junior center Josef Soderman, junior forward Lester Chang-Fong, senior guard John Beckett, junior guard Brian Stapf, junior guard Dwayne "Tiny" Smith and senior forward Clevon Dunbar are all returnees who have played a role in the Tritons' hot start.

Eckerd is ranked fourth in the South Region . Rollins (9-2) is second, Barry (8-1) sixth and Florida Southern (6-0) eighth.

Five of the region's top 10 are from the Sunshine State Conference.

"This is a tough conference every year," Ryan said. "There are never any easy games."

The Eckerd women (10-1) don't play until Tuesday, when the Triton's meet New Jersey Institute of Technology.

Then after a Wednesday game against Harding University, they start the same 14-game league stretch as the men.

Junior forward Felecia Felton, senior guard Katie Cole, freshman forward Noreen McCallum, freshman forward Kim Trask and freshman forward Elizabeth Lally have contributed to Eckerd's best start under coach Brian Shultes.

LOOKING AHEAD: The St. Petersburg Junior College men's and women's teams took long breaks for the holidays, but the balls are bouncing again.

The men (7-7) played Broward Community College on Friday night and will meet Seminole Community College on Wednesday before beginning 12 straight Suncoast Conference games.

The women's squad (6-7) has a 17-day break before resuming action Wednesday at Santa Fe Community College.

After that, it's 12 of 14 league games to finish the season.

NATIONAL POLL: While neither of SPJC's basketball teams are ranked in the National Junior College Athletic Association poll, two Florida schools are.

Okaloosa-Walton CC is the top men's squad in the country with an 11-0 record. Tallahassee CC is seventh at 14-0.

The women's poll has four Florida schools in the top 25. They are Gulf Coast CC (fifth), Daytona Beach CC (eighth), Palm Beach CC (13th) and Central Florida CC (21st).