By Daniel Shirley
The three seniors on East Tennessee State’s roster have had plenty of success in their careers, but in the postseason, every game could be their final one.
Isiah Brown, one of the trio along with Adam Sollazzo and Tommy Hubbard, said the possible end of their careers is even more uncertain than that.
It comes down to every play, every rebound, every shot.
The Bucs saw another example of just how tenuous the hold on their careers can be Thursday in the 2012 General Shale Brick A-Sun Championship. ETSU (17-13) won 68-66, knocking North Florida out of the championship, as the Bucs held off several late UNF shots at a tie or possible win.
“It’s very surreal about how much time has passed,” Brown said. “Any opportunity that you get to extend your collegiate career is right there for you. Some of us may continue to do this, and some of us may not, and that’s why this is important.
“You’re getting the opportunity to do something that you can look back on and be proud of with your career.”
The ETSU seniors have a lot to be proud about in their careers as they have advanced to the NCAA tournament twice. But their careers hung in the balance as Ospreys guard Parker Smith eyed a 3-pointer at the buzzer. Smith was short on the shot, however, and the Bucs ran out the clock to extend their seniors’ careers.
That win pushed the Bucs into a showdown with Belmont, which ended ETSU’s reign in the A-Sun Championship last year.
“Every possession you miss a shot, and it makes you want to cry, like, ‘Oh my gosh, I shouldn’t have taken that shot or I shouldn’t have turned the ball over. I should have made a better decision,’ ” Brown said. “It’s a team game, and everyone is on the same ride. Everyone is doing what they can to extend the seniors’ careers so we can keep playing.
“My freshman year I was out there on the court in the same atmosphere, and I was scared. There’s the pressure of 'you win or go home,' and the stakes are a lot higher. As a senior now, you have to take it as every other game and do what you have to do to win because you don’t want it to end.”
Brown and his fellow seniors accomplished that on Thursday. He finished with 22 points and set the program’s career blocked shots record. Sollazzo added 13 points and four assists, and Hubbard had 11 points and 10 rebounds.
“The three seniors carried us, and in most of our wins, the three seniors have been the key guys for us,” ETSU head coach Murry Bartow said. “They have been good their entire careers, going to two NCAA tournaments, so they know how to win, and they certainly carried us (Thursday).”
In doing so, they get to play at least one more day.
Daniel Shirley is the sports editor of The Telegraph in Macon. Follow complete coverage of the Atlantic Sun tournament at www.macon.com/mercer and follow Daniel at @DM_Shirley for live updates throughout the tournament.