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Southeastern Bows out of Sun Conference Tournament to Ave Maria
LAKE WALES, Fla. – In an emotional back-and-forth battle in the Turner Athletic Center, the No. 23 Southeastern University men’s basketball team bowed out of The Sun Conference Tournament in the semifinals to the receiving votes Ave Maria University Gyrenes 83-81.
The Fire turned in an even-paced first half where they opened up the game on a 7-0 run.
Southeastern’s ability to get to the free-throw line in the first half paid dividends, as the Fire were 7-9 from the charity stripe in the first 20 minutes of play, while the Gyrenes made just two free throws during that stretch.
The Fire received a balanced scoring effort in the first half, with four different SEU players having scored eight or more points at the intermission, guiding Southeastern to a 46-37 halftime lead.
After shooting 51.4% from the field in the first half (18-35), the Fire struggled to knock down shots at different points in the second half, shooting 38.2% in the final 20 minutes (13-34).
Ave Maria opened the second half on an 18-4 run. After trailing by as many as 10, SEU battled back to regain the lead 71-70 with 3:47 to go on an authoritative dunk by sophomore guard Isaiah Moody. However, that proved to be the last time the Gyrenes relinquished the lead.
A three pointer by junior guard Jeremy Oppenheimer tied things back up 81-81 with 18 seconds remaining in regulation. However, an SEU reach-in foul five seconds later sent the Gyrenes to the free-throw line for what ended up being the deciding points.
Oppenheimer finished the night with a team-leading 18 points and five rebounds. Senior point guard Ismael Celestin had 16 to go along with five boards and three assists. Sophomore guard Isaiah Moody had 13 points, four rebounds, and five assists off the bench.
The Gyrenes advance to take on the College of Coastal Georgia Mariners in The Sun Conference Tournament Final Saturday at 6 p.m. in Lake Wales.
The Fire now await to see if they will receive an at-large bid to the NAIA National Tournament.