Florida Tech Wins OT Thriller 80-78, Stays Perfect
By Florida Tech Athletic Communications // January 4, 2015
Best start since 2008-09
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – In search of its first road Sunshine State Conference victory of the season, Florida Tech reeled off an exhilarating 80-78 overtime triumph over Saint Leo to move to 11-0, matching its best start since 2008-09.
In a contest that seemed it may never end, Kaila Callender saved her best for last, providing a three-point dagger with 33 seconds to go to propel the Panthers to a nail-biting win.
“You have to give credit to Saint Leo,” said head coach John Reynolds. “They came in with a game plan and stuck to it.”
Playing at its usual up and down pace, Florida Tech struggled to find its range from the field early.
After trailing 7-2 out of the gate, the Lions used a 9-0 run to jump in front 11-7 with 11:51 to go in the opening half.
Having shown glimpses of greatness through the first 10 games, redshirt sophomore Shequana Harris found her groove towards the latter portion of the first half. Time and time again she was able to wiggle her way through the heart of the Saint Leo defense, registering 17 of her career-high 30 points on 8-of-10 shooting before the break.
“Shequana really took over that game,” added Reynolds. “She carried us for stretches and was great today.”
Keyed by Harris and two huge three-point baskets from forward Melissa Echols, Florida Tech ran off an impressive 19-4 stretch to lead 38-29 at the intermission.
In a back-and-forth affair that featured 12 ties and 13 lead changes, Saint Leo rallied back in large part to the inside presence of Melissa Jackson. Jackson finished the afternoon with a monstrous 26 point and 18 rebound outing.
Down a bucket with 12.9 seconds remaining in regulation, point guard Morgan Steinert sunk a clutch baseline jumper to force overtime and preserve the Panthers perfect start. In her first start of the season, Steinert chipped in a modest five points, but demonstrated impressive composure in a frantic atmosphere.
In the extra session, Harris tallied the Panthers’ first seven points, but they once again found themselves knotted at 76 all with 33 seconds to play.
With just one point on 0-of-4 shooting from beyond the arc, Callender wound up on the receiving end of a Kayk Wilson pass, and drained the biggest shot of the game to secure the narrow win.
Junior Tiesha Flagler recorded a career-high 17 rebounds to help raise her average to a team-high 8.8.
“I’m proud of our seniors,” said Reynolds. “Huge shot for Kaila to come off the bench and be able to knock that down. Saint Leo’s at the bottom of the standings, but look at the margin of error between first and last. I expect all our games in conference to be like this.”
FIT will return home to face Palm Beach Atlantic on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. Tune into FloridaTechSports.com for complete coverage of the contest.