Bernard Thompson and the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles are going dancing.
Florida Gulf Coast became the first team to punch its ticket into the NCAA Tournament by defeating Mercer 88-75 in Macon Saturday.
Thompson, a former standout with the Rockdale County High School Bulldogs, scored 11 points and had five rebounds and five steals in the win. The sophomore scored eight of his points in the second half, a theme throughout the Atlantic Sun Tournament. All but three of his 44 points in the Eagles' three A-Sun Tournament games came in the second half.
Florida Gulf Coast led just 38-36 at halftime, before Thompson helped the Eagles pull away toward their first ever NCAA Tournament appearance and A-Sun Tournament Championship. As the horn sounded Saturday, Thompson was sitting on the bench eagerly awaiting his chance to go dancing.
"It feels great," said Thompson's former coach Alvin Williams, head coach of Bulldogs boys basketball. "That lets me know he made a very wise decision to go there. That team has worked hard, and coach (Andy) Endfield has recruited well. They're just a bunch of blue collar workers."
Williams met with Thompson and his Eagles teammates earlier this season, experiencing firsthand what hard workers they are. That hard work shows itself on both ends of the floor, in particular Thompson on the defensive end.
Thompson was voted the A-Sun Defensive Player of the Year, and coming into Saturday's game was second in the NCAA with 95 steals and fifth with 2.88 steals per game. His 95 steals set a program record and were third all-time in A-Sun history, nine behind Centenary's Larry Robinson (1989-90).
"A lot of times on the teams he was playing with (at Rockdale) everybody was looking at the dunks," Williams said. "But he was great defensive for us too. He led us in steals three years straight. He has a knack for the ball, always guarding the team's best players."
Thompson and Florida Gulf Coast will have to wait until March 17 to find out who they will be playing but they can rest assured they are in the field of 68, and no matter what Williams will be there to cheer on his former pupil.
"Oh I'm going," Williams said. "No matter where it is, as long as there's an airport I'm going."