The basketball court was a place of respite for Adam Sollazzo on Thursday night, and the East Tennessee State senior guard enjoyed every minute of it.
Two days after being robbed at gunpoint, Sollazzo helped the Bucs to a 72-56 victory over Stetson at the Minidome. He got off to a good start and finished with 19 points as ETSU won its second game in a row.
“It was tough,” Sollazzo said. “It was a rollercoaster but I’m just blessed to be here. It was good to get on the court and have some fun. We’ve been through adversity through this whole year. Bad things happen. We can get through anything. We’re all family here.”
Shortly before the game, it was announced that ETSU junior guard Sheldon Cooley had been arrested and charged with filing a false police report in the Tuesday night incident during which Sollazzo and injured teammate J.C. Ward were reportedly bound and gagged.
The Bucs (15-13, 9-8 Atlantic Sun Conference) were already playing without senior forward Tommy Hubbard when Cooley’s arrest was announced. Hubbard was out after landing on his head in a fall during ETSU’s last game. Cooley is suspended indefinitely from the team.
“We’ve had some distractions,” ETSU coach Murry Bartow said. “That was the first thing I brought up in the pregame talk. Sheldon’s certainly part of our program and he’s very close with his teammates. But we had to play well. I said ‘That can’t be a distraction from 7 o’clock to 9 o’clock.’
“Sheldon and Tommy, two of our top four players, you take them out and everybody else has to play really well or you don’t win.”
Isiah Brown led ETSU with 22 points and Marcus Dubose added 15, including six in a row during the Bucs’ decisive 10-0 run in the second half. Lukas Poderis had a career-high 11 rebounds in what Bartow called his best performance of the season.
Stetson (9-19, 6-11) cut the Bucs’ lead to nine on Willie Green’s free throw with 7:47 left. ETSU then scored the next 10, including three straight baskets from Dubose, to put the game away.
Sollazzo scored the Bucs’ first six points, showing he put the effects of Tuesday night’s incident behind him.
“I talked to him right before the game and said ‘How you doing?’ ” Bartow said. “Adams’ a very confident young man. There’s no way to predict how he’s gonna play. He played well tonight. Adam’s a gamer, a great, great competitor.”
Adam Pegg led the Hatters with 12 points. Stetson had beaten the Bucs earlier in the season, yet the Hatters are now in danger of not making the A-Sun tournament.
“It’s no revenge, just doing what we’re supposed to do,” Brown said. “Going out there and playing hard, getting momentum at the end of the season. It was a great win.”
The Bucs close the regular season on Saturday when Florida Gulf Coast pays a visit to the Dome. It will be the final home game for the team’s three seniors, Sollazzo, Brown and Hubbard. The late Seth Coy will also be honored. Coy, who was killed in a car crash after his freshman year, was part of what is now this year’s senior class. His mother is expected to be on hand on Saturday.
“It’s crazy to think these four years went by so fast,” Sollazzo said. “I’m just glad I have my family here and guys like Isiah and Tommy to go out with.”