By Devon Jeffreys | firstname.lastname@example.org
Golitah 97, David 51
It didn’t end the way that head coach Bo Clark and the Saints had dreamed, no one dreams about losing by 46, but for one night, Flagler College basketball was on the big stage.
“This was an exciting thing for Flagler College,” Clark said. “I wish I could say we won the ballgame 88-84 but I’d probably be dreaming.”
The Saints, playing the role of David, entered the O’Connell Center in Gainesville, Florida last Thursday as a severe underdog and when it came down to it, Goliath, the two-time defending national champion Florida Gators, was just too big and too strong.
Size and strength were the biggest differences in the game, as the Saints were broken down on the boards, out rebounded 59-33.
“You have to kind of expect that in a game like this,” Clark said.
Flagler’s tallest player is Bryan Borstelmann at 6-7. Borstelmann would be the sixth tallest on the Gators roster.
For the first 12 minutes, the Saints kept the game close, trailing 23-17 with 7:57 left in the first half. From there, the Gators pulled away scoring the next 14 points, unanswered, to establish a 20-point lead. They led 46-26 at the half.
“I knew everyone expected us not to win,” point guard D.J. Ferguson said. “We just wanted to give them a game and in the first half. We were in it somewhat. They just had a few runs. That’s where we just fell behind the wagon.”
Ferguson, a freshman, finished with eight points and four assists in his first game for Flagler.
The Gators would maintain control throughout the second half and cruise to the win.
Though the Saints struggled on offense (18-66 from the field) there were some bright spots.
Freshman guard John Pietkiewicz recovered from an ankle injury that kept him out of practice all week to contribute off the bench. Pietkiewicz was 4-7 from the field, with all his shots coming from three-point range, and compiled a team high 12 points.
“Coach was thinking about holding me out for this game,” Pietkiewicz said. “I told him I’ve got to play no matter what. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
Saints guard Jon Matthews also hit double digits in points, scoring 10 on a 4-8 shooting night.
“He had kind of a tough spurt at the beginning of the game but after that he kind of settled down and I thought he did some good things,” Clark said.
Though they lost by nearly 50, the Saints players and coaching staff were in agreement that they had nothing to be ashamed of.
“We played the back-to-back national champions,” Ferguson said. “Any team we play after this is going to be easier.”
For the Saints, winning was an afterthought to the experience. Clark said that it was paramount for his team to enjoy the opportunity.
“Just to play in this atmosphere, I thought it was a great experience, at least I hope it was for our players,” Clark said. “I appreciate [Gators] coach [Billy] Donovan giving us the opportunity to play them.”
For Donovan, it was a standing relationship with Clark that made him want to give Flagler this opportunity.
“I’ve got great respect for Bo Clark,” Donovan said. “The main reason why we played Flagler is my respect for Bo and what he represents.”
Flagler now puts Gainesville behind them and heads into their final exhibition game tonight at home against the Sawyer Brown All-Stars. The first regular season game is Thursday, November 15, against Trinity College at Flagler Gym.