Maestri wins No. 500, Troy advances

Published 1:00 am Saturday, March 9, 2013

Troy men’s basketball head coach Don Maestri won his 500th game on Friday as the Trojans defeated Florida Atlantic, 81-79, in overtime in the Sun Belt Championships.

The Trojans, playing in Hot Springs, Ark., fought off Florida Atlantic’s fast start to regain control of the game and lead by six at halftime. With a one-point lead in the second half, Troy fouled FAU’s Stefan Moody with 30 second remaining. Moody made the first free throw to tie the game at 70-70, but missed the back end. Kelvin Penn came down with the offensive rebound and put the ball back up to give Florida Atlantic the lead. Troy’s Emil Jones drew a foul on the ensuing possession and made both free throws to force overtime.

Jones would score Troy’s first eight points in the extra period where the Trojans never trailed. Jones finished the game with 18 points.

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Maestri was quick to deflect the attention away from his milestone victory back to the game and the players.

“With the amount of games we’ve lost in the last 35 seconds, getting 500 is more about just getting a victory tonight for these kids,” said Maestri. “To see their faces after those games and then to see them after this one tonight is what it’s about.”

Maestri was hired in 1982 and guided the Troy basketball program from Division II to the Sun Belt Conference. In his time, Maestri’s teams have posted eight 20-win seasons and won seven conference championships.

Maestri was named Sun Belt Conference Coach of the Year after the 2008-09 season. Troy finished that season 14-4 in conference play. It was fifth different conference to name him Coach of the Year.

Assistant coach David Felix has also become an icon at the school. He has been a member of the Troy program for 36 years as both a player and coach.

Troy will take on Arkansas State in the quarterfinals at 9 p.m. on Saturday.