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Eagles will host the College Insiders Tournament

Bernard Thompson reaches for the net. (EN Photo / Kelli Krebs)
Bernard Thompson reaches for the net. (EN Photo / Kelli Krebs)

The end of the season didn’t quite go as planned, but nonetheless, the Florida Gulf Coast University men’s basketball team is headed for its third consecutive postseason berth.

The Eagles fell in heartbreaking fashion to the Spartans of USC Upstate, 63-62 in the Atlantic Sun semifinal at Alico Arena. Senior guard and program cornerstone Bernard Thompson had the opportunity to tie the game with less than two seconds left, but missed his final of three free throws as the clock struck midnight on FGCU’s hopes of returning to the NCAA tournament.

FGCU’s postseason fate was up in the air after its loss in the conference tournament, and the players had no idea what to expect.

“I think that was the worst thing for me over the break was not knowing what the heck is going on,” senior guard Brett Comer told reporters Tuesday afternoon. “I didn’t know if we were going to play in the postseason, I didn’t know if I got to be ready to play, hopefully professionally somewhere. I think that was the thing that killed me the most was the uncertainty.”

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That period of watching and waiting came to an end Monday when FGCU accepted a bid to play in the College Insiders Tournament, or CIT, hosting a game at Alico Arena on Wednesday, March 18.

“I’m happy,” Comer said after learning that FGCU would be playing at home at least one more time. “Obviously I didn’t want my career to kind of end like that. I wanted to play in the postseason and keep playing with these guys even longer… I think it’s just even better the fact that we get to play in front of all the fans and our student section for one more game.”

The Eagles opponent for the opening round of the CIT has yet to be determined, but FGCU is already back at practice preparing for what they hope is a deep run into the postseason.

“It’s an opportunity to keep getting better,” head coach Joe Dooley said of the Eagles’ CIT acceptance. “If you look around the country, there’s a lot of teams that are disappointed and we’re one of them… It’s an honor to play in the postseason and I think that we have to look at it as an opportunity to keep growing our program and get some of our younger guys to get some opportunity to play.”

Dooley said that Tuesday’s practice was the first time the team had been back on the floor since the crushing loss to Upstate five days before.

“We’re going to do more skill development stuff (at practice now),” Dooley said. “Obviously we don’t know who the opponent is so I think it’ll be a good opportunity to give our young guys some work. It’s almost like bowl preparation.”

Despite the disappointment of their early exit, the Eagles seemed to be in good spirits and ready to move on to their next opponent, whoever that might be. Comer said that he finally had the opportunity to rest and get some sleep, all helping to get prepared for another physical stretch run.

“I’m ready to play, you know. I’m always ready to play when it’s game time, so it’ll be fun,” Comer said.

But he wasn’t alone.

“I know I talked to Bernard and Jamail (Jones) a little bit and they’re ready to come out there and play as well.”

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