Thomas scores 20 as Eagles defeat Manatees 77-72

VannAubrey Thomas scores against State College of Florida. He came off the bench to score 20 points as the Eagles won 77-72. (Photo by Tom Hagerty, Polk State.)
VannAubrey Thomas scores against State College of Florida. He came off the bench to score 20 points as the Eagles won 77-72. (Photo by Tom Hagerty, Polk State.)

The Polk State Eagles soared to a 77-72 victory over the State College of Florida Manatees (No. 4 FCSAA) tonight in Winter Haven.   

The Eagles got off to a slow start in the first half and trailed 14-8 at the 14-minute mark. Fighting back, they took a 34-33 lead with 48 seconds left before ending the half down 35-34. 

"The key to the turnaround was we started defending a lot better," said Head Coach Brandon Giles. 

"We made a couple of rotations and then the ball started popping a lot more as well. Plus we were getting stops and that was turning into good offense for us."  

Polk State took a 49-47 lead with 12 minutes remaining and never trailed the rest of the way. 

VannAubrey Thomas lead the Eagles with 20 points, making five of eight three-point shots.  

"VannAubrey Thomas was huge for us off the bench, especially with him not getting the minutes he's probably wanted these last couple of games," said Giles.  

"But he definitely stepped up huge this game. We ask our guys to respond at times of adversity and VannAubrey Thomas definitely did that tonight." 

Tekorian "TK" Smith finished with 18 points and made some key three-pointers in the second half to help preserve the lead. 

"Big-time players make big-time shots, and TK made some big-time shots tonight," said Giles. "When he's hitting shots like that he's just hard to guard. There's not much the defense can do with him." 

Clarence Jackson posted a double-double, scoring 15 points and grabbing 17 rebounds.  

With their 15th win, the Eagles topped last season's high of 14 and became the first Polk State team since 2015-16 to reach that number.  

"It's nice but we definitely don't want to stop here at 15," said Giles. 

"When I got this job in 2017 I knew it would take time to build it to where we wanted to get to. For this season our goal is to win a championship and if we can go get eight more wins we might have that championship, so we're excited about it. 

The Eagles (15-6, 3-2, No. 8 FCSAA) return to action Saturday with a non-conference game against Impact Academy at 2 p.m. in Winter Haven. 

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