Eagles soar past Hawks in OT

Tohi Smith-Milner, who scored 19 points, drives to the basket. (Photo by Tom Hagerty, Polk State.)
Tohi Smith-Milner, who scored 19 points, drives to the basket. (Photo by Tom Hagerty, Polk State.)

Polk State needed overtime but came away with a win tonight, beating Hillsborough Community College 88-85. 

The teams entered the game tied for first place, along with St. Petersburg College, in the Suncoast Conference. 

At the end of the first half, with Polk State trailing by one, Kareem Harris hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to give the Eagles a 36-34 lead. 

Polk State started strong in the second half and led 60-49 with nine minutes to play, but the Hawks steadily chipped away at the lead. 

With 18 seconds left in regulation, the Eagles led 77-76. Jaleo Wilkes drew a foul and made two shots, giving Polk State a 79-76 advantage.  

But Hillsborough made a three-point shot with five seconds left to tie the game at 79-79. 

When Shafeek Taylor's three-point shot missed at the buzzer, the teams went to overtime. 

After the Eagles took an 82-81 lead, the Hawks scored four unanswered point to go up 85-82. 

Those were their final points, however, as Reger Baker hit two free throws, Jaleo Wilkes made a layup, and Shafeek Taylor sank two free throws to give the Eagles an 88-85 lead with 15 seconds left in overtime. 

The Hawks had a final chance on offense, but missed a three-point attempt as time expired. 

"It was a good win," said Head Coach Matt Furjanic. "Our guys played very hard. 

"That's a very good Hillsborough team, and the game was nip-and-tuck the whole way, but our guys did what they needed to do. 

"In the second half, Hillsborough went with a small lineup and that kind of surprised us. For most of the second half they didn't have a player taller than six-four on the court. So that kind of threw us off a little bit, and they spread the court on us and attacked our defense. But we made free throws down the stretch, and that was very important. 

"I thought we showed good poise on offense in overtime and at the end of regulation, so we'll take the win." 

For Polk State, Tohi Smith-Milner had 19 points. 

Bernard Samuel recorded 17 points, while Shafeek Taylor (13) and Nigel Grant (11) also scored in double figures. 

The Eagles improve to 18-7 and 3-1 in the conference. 

With St. Petersburg also winning today, it remains tied with Polk State for first place.  The two teams will battle for sole possession of first place on Feb. 4 at 7 p.m. in Winter Haven. 

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