ST. AUGUSTINE — When the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) released its Preseason Top 25 in late October, the hype surrounding Flagler College men’s basketball team being positioned at No. 2 was uncontainable.
“People look back at last year with rose-colored glasses,” head coach Chad Warner said.
It took a while for the Flagler College community to come down from its high after the Saints made a magical run to the final four of the NCAA Division II tournament last year.
The Saints went 1-2 to start the season. Warner and the Saints, however, were not worried. The group went on a nine-game win streak after the second loss.
“We’re still growing,” Flagler star and leading scorer Jaizec Lottie said. “We’re not where we want to be but we weren’t where we were two months ago.”
The Saints are now 14-3. And after another huge, exciting win over another ranked opponent in No. 17 Augusta (14-3) last Friday, they refuse to succumb to overconfidence and steer away from their objective of reaching or advancing past where they ended last year.
The Saints had to fight to overcome a good Augusta team, which led by as many as nine points. Winning plays and staunch defense in the second half rallied Flagler past the Jaguars, 79-66.
Warner was not surprised by the fight they had to put up against Augusta because they play in a tough league, he said. He told his team prior to the game that they could’ve just as easily lost the game because Augusta is a great team that’s well-coached.
“This game last year, we were down seven points with three minutes to go,” Warner recalled. “You need to expect to win, but you need to expect a struggle to win.”
Luckily, the Saints aren’t afraid to go win games –—which is a credit to their mentality, Warner added.
Although the Saints are back in the NABC rankings at No. 23 after their big win over Augusta, that's not their concern.
“Coach always tells us not to drink the rat poison,” Flagler senior guard Curtis Lewis said. “None of that stuff never meant anything to us — being ranked No. 2. We’re going to come out every single day and continue to be dogs.”
They took the underdog approach to notch wins against Augusta and Embry-Riddle, who was ranked No. 15, when the Saints beat them.
This latest victory was a statement that Flagler is here and that they’re for real, Lottie said. He quickly regrouped, though.
No rat poison for him.
“One win — it’s a long road ahead,” Lottie added. “That’s what we’re worried about now.”
This article originally appeared on St. Augustine Record: College basketball: Flagler defeats ranked Augusta, keeps eyes forward