The Toccoa Falls College men’s basketball team shook off a slow first half, and finished the season strong by advancing to the semifinals of the South Region tournament in Clearwater, Florida.
The team finished with an overall record of 9-23, but played well in the second half of the season, with six of those wins coming during a nine game stretch, including a streak of four straight.
First year Head Coach Jason Mehl said the turning point of the season for his team came during a home game against Sewanee. The team was down big, but through the use of an intense, full-court pressure, the Eagles went on a 14-6 run by creating turnovers that led to easy baskets. “Even though we lost that game, it gave us an idea of what we were capable of,” Mehl said. “It got our energy up and guys were believing in each other and we grew up tremendously.”
The team was able to carry this momentum into the tournament, beating the host school, Clearwater Christian, in the first round by a score of 78-62. This set up a rematch in the semifinals between TFC and Florida Christian, who owned the top seed in the region. TFC played Florida Christian hard at home this year, losing a heartbreaker in the final seconds, and went into the game with an upset in mind. Despite playing a good game, the Eagles came up just short, losing by a score of 99-81.
One of the bright spots for the Eagles this year was the play of sophomore forward Derek Westfall. Westfall had a breakout season, leading the team in rebounding and finishing in the top ten of the conference in field goal percentage. He was voted onto the 2nd all region team by opposing coaches, and was asked to do a lot in the second half of the season, as he was the only true post player on the roster. Westfall said of his season, “One of the reasons I played so well is because I just played my role. I did whatever my team needed me to do to the best of my abilities.”
The Eagles are looking forward to next year, as the team features only one senior, and has 11 players who are either freshmen or sophomores. “If I had to sum up our season I’d say, we were young and we started to grow up at the end of the season. The progress we made is the result of a full team effort,” Mehl said. The off-season will give the team a chance to continue to grow together, and to come back next year with the goal to take their game to the next level.