MARIANNA, FL -- Northwest Florida had hopes of a run to the national tournament this season, behind the play of the nation's top junior college recruit Chris Jones. But, the Raiders were forced to play most of Friday's semifinal game at the FCSAA State Tournament without their top player, and they paid the price.
Jones was ejected in the first half for arguing with officials, and Central Florida Community College took advantage, winning a hotly contested 74-71 game, advancing to the State Championship Game on Saturday night.
Jones, a Louisville signee, struggled in the early going on Friday, scoring just three points in the first 13 minutes of the game. He was quickly whistled for two technical fouls, ending his day.
CFCC took advantage of Jones' absence, leading 41-32 at halftime. But, the Raiders responded after the break, actually tying the game in the second half, before ultimately falling by three points.
Eugene McCrory led CFCC with 16 points. The Patriots now await the winner of Friday night's semifinal game between Chipola and Brevard. The State Championship Game will be played on Saturday night at 7:30 at Milton Johnson Health Center.
Lamin Fulton led four Northwest Florida players in double figures with 16 points. The Raiders, ranked third in the nation in the latest NJCAA poll, end the year with a 26-3 record.