By  //  November 22, 2012

Panthers Now Prepare For Tournament

BREVARD COUNTY • MELBOURNE, FLORIDA – Down by three points with just six seconds remaining in overtime, Florida Tech sophomore Chris Carter sunk a game-tying jumper from behind the arc to ignite the Clemente Center crowd on Wednesday night.

Florida Tech forward Chris Carter had 26 points in the Panthers’ overtime loss to Puerto Rico-Mayaguez on Wednesday. (Image courtesy Florida Tech)

Puerto Rico-Mayaguez forward Gabriel Garcia had other ideas however, as he caught a pass in the paint and laid in the ball as time expired to give the Tarzans a 97-95 mens’ basketball victory in Melbourne.

“Mayaguez is a veteran team,” head coach Billy Mims said. “Tonight they came in and put it all together and played really well against us. They shot the ball well. They made good decisions. And I thought they out-toughed us. That’s the difference between having juniors and seniors on the floor, and having freshmen and sophomores.”

Carter and Jermaine Jackson led Panthers scorers with 26 points each and freshman David Usic added 17 for FIT. The trio each grabbed double-figure rebounds to complete double-doubles for all three.

The Panthers (1-1) and Tarzans (2-3) played tight throughout the first half as neither team built more than an eight-point lead. With the score tied, Mayaguez ended the half on a 7-3 run to take a four-point lead into the break.

The two squads continued to trade baskets in the second half as both teams refused to go down without a fight.

Trailing by one with a minute and a half remaining, Jackson drove to the basket and put in a layup to give the Panthers a one-point advantage. Mayaguez responded by hitting a free throw to tie the score for the fifth time in the half to force overtime.

The score remained within three points during the entire extra period as the clock continued to click. The Tarzans seemingly took control with a pair of free throws to take a three-point lead with 14 seconds remaining. With the clock ticking down, Carter rose up for a final three-pointer that hit nothing but net.

Mayaguez took a timeout with six seconds remaining to set up the final play. Rushing through the backcourt, Mario Diaz floated a pass that found Garcia wide open in the paint. The Tarzan forward kissed the shot off the backboard and through the rim as the clock hit zero.

Diaz led all scorers with 28 points, going 7-for-12 from the field. He added an 11-for-13 night from the free throw line. Juan Ramos added 20 points for the Tarzans.

The Panthers out-rebounded the Tarzans 54-35 on the night and 24 were offensive boards. Mayaguez used 12 three-pointers in the victory.

“I thought we started off tonight by playing much better defense in the early stages,” Mims said. “We defended well early on. But they made some big shots. The only thing that kept them in the game early was their three-point shooting. I thought we did a pretty good job defensively as a team.”

With the loss, the Panthers’ home win streak ends at 14 games. Heading into Wednesday’s game, their last loss at home occurred on Nov. 26, 2011 when District of Columbia turned back FIT 82-75 in the Championship Game of the Panthers’ Thanksgiving Tournament.

The Crimson and Gray will now prepare for the Hooters of Melbourne Thanksgiving Tournament. The Panthers will play Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras at 7:30 p.m. on Friday. Morehouse and Wisconsin-Parkside will precede the game at 5 p.m.

On Saturday, the two losing teams will play in the consolation game at 2 p.m. The two winning teams will then play for the tournament championship at 4:30 p.m.