Florida Tech Panthers Men’s Basketball Falls Short In Upset Bid Vs. Top Seeded Barry
By Alan Zlotorzynski, Assistant Editor // March 2, 2017
sEASON LIKELY OVER BUT TEAM returnS 4 STARTERS
MIAMI SHORES, FLORIDA – Winning three of their final four games to finish the regular season, the Florida Tech Panthers men’s basketball team had visions of an upset heading to Miami Shores on Wednesday night to face the top seeded and nationally ranked Barry Buccaneers.
But it wasn’t meant to be, as the eighth seeded Panthers fell to head coach Billy Mims former team, 87-84 in a hard fought contest that produced three tied scores and eight lead changes throughout.
No team led by more than eight points in the contest and things looked good as the Panthers defense held the Bucs three point shooters in check during the first half.
FIT took a 39-36 advantage into the locker room after the first 20 minutes of play..
The three point advantage was due to a fast start, led by one of Florida Tech’s seldom used but effective beyond the arc shooters, freshman Antonis Pefanis.
The Panthers version of the “Greek Freak” drained three treys to grab a share of the scoring lead, alongside Sam Daniel, with nine first half points.
Jordan Majors and Patrick Anderson also showed why they were mainstays for the Crimson and Gray all year as they each had six points in the first twenty minutes of action.
Whatever Barry Head Coach Butch Estes’ halftime message was, it sank in as the Buccaneers began the final 20-minutes of play showing why it was a Top seed, a Top-10 team in the nation for much of the year and consistently atop the SSC rankings.
The Panthers led by eight points with 6:30 remaining before Barry exploded on a 14-0 run over the next 2:53 to take a 78-74 lead.
Following two three pointers by Barry’s Elvar Fridriksson within a 24 second span at the 4:15, the Bucs jumped in front, 76-74.
The Panthers cut it to one when Jordan Majors split a pair from the free throw line with 2:13 remaining but Daniel Mortensen’s seventh three of the game on the next possession made the margin four points and FIT could not get the deficit under three the rest of the way.
Frisriksson and Mortensen combined to score 47 of Barry’s 87 points in the contest.
Despite the outcome, two of Florida Tech’s top players put in career performances on the night.
Majors and Anderson both torched Barry for 16 points each in the second half on a combined 11-of-16 from the field.
Majors, who was just named 2nd Team All-Sunshine State Conference, also played stellar on the glass nabbing four rebounds in games final 20 minutes.
Majors and Anderson led FIT in scoring with 22 points apiece and each dished out five assists in the game.
Two other Panthers hit the double-digit plateau as Pefanis and Daniel finished with 14 and 11 points respectively.
Although Daniel, who was named first team All-SSC on Tuesday hit double digits, his 11-points were well below his scoring average of 20.2 per game, which was second best in the SSC this season.
ABOVE VIDEO: Highlights from the Barry perspective, as the Bucs survive a gritty performance by Florida Tech in SSC Quarterfinal action.
Barry’s defense did an excellent job of making things difficult for Florida Tech’s junior, especially in the second half when they held Daniel to 0-4 shooting with just two points from the charity stripe.
The Bucs outscored FIT 14-4 in transition basketball as No. 1 seeds improved to 20-0 all time in SSC quarterfinal Tournament play.
Defensively, sophomore Derek Murphy and senior Robert Booth, who played in his final game as a Panther in the contest, led the team on the rebounding front, each grabbing six boards during the game.
Wednesday night’s loss will most likely end Florida Tech’s season, as they are not expected to receive an at large bid for the NCAA D2 Tournament.
The team finished the year 15-14 overall and 7-12 in SSC conference play.
However, the Panthers return the core of the team for the 2017-18 season, as Daniel, Majors, Jordan, Murphy and several other standouts during the year come back next season which should allow Florida Tech to contend for the Sunshine State Conference title.
This is a team Panthers head coach Billy Mims compares to his 2010-11 team which finished 15-16 overall.
The following year, with most of the core back, the Panthers went 23-7 overall and 12-4 in SSC play to capture the school’s first ever Conference title.
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