Florida Tech Panthers End Sunshine State Conference Play With 55-45 Victory

By  //  February 21, 2016

Florida Tech defeated Saint Leo 55-45 Saturday for its 12th conference win of the season. (Image by Ryan Seeloff)

BREVARD COUNTY • MELBOURNE, FLORIDA – In a game that would determine the Panthers’ postseason position, Florida Tech outworked Saint Leo in the second half, using a 23-point fourth quarter to seal a 55-45 victory Saturday.

A team that was once voted to finish sixth in the Sunshine State Conference this season, FIT (18-7, 12-4 SSC) has now locked up the No. 2 seed in the upcoming SSC Tournament on March 2-6.

Shequana Harris paced Florida Tech, finishing just short of a double-double with a game-high 15 points and a career-high nine rebounds. The Bronx, New York product was near perfect from the charity stripe, making 10-of-11.

 Shequana Harris
Shequana Harris

Diamond Cooper also ended one rebound shy of a double-double, finishing with 14 points and nine boards. DeLise Williams tallied 11 points, four steals and three rebounds while Tiesha Flagler filled the stat sheet with six points, six boards, four assists and three steals.

Both teams struggled from the field in the contest as SLU shot 31.4 percent compared to the Panthers’ 23.1. The Lions won the rebound battle 46-45, however FIT controlled the offensive glass, notching 16 second-chance points off its 23 offensive boards.

Florida Tech turned defense into offense throughout the game as well, converting 22 SLU turnovers into 22 points.

John Reynolds
John Reynolds

“As poor as our offense was tonight, our defense was really solid,” stated head coach John Reynolds.

“We only scored 55 but we held them to 45 and forced 22 turnovers, so that was some good work by our defense.”

“Saint Leo played really hard today and kept the game at a tempo they like. Their game plan was to sit in a zone and force us to take our threes, and in the first half our shot selection was poor because of it. In the second half, we needed someone to make big shots and that’s what DeLise did. She hit back-to-back threes in the third and fourth quarters and really turned the game around for us, and as a result, we were able to pull away late.”

The Panthers jumped out to a 7-2 lead on Julie McCarthy’s put-back at the 4:45 mark. However, Saint Leo closed the first quarter with its own 7-2 run to tie it up at 9-9 at the end of the first.

A three-point play by Cooper to start the second gave FIT a 12-9 advantage. The Panthers’ edge remained between one and three points the rest of the half. Kailyn Ebb’s free throw with less than a minute remaining handed her squad a 19-16 lead at the break.

Cooper accounted for 10 of the Panthers’ 19 first half points to go along with five rebounds. Asia Royster was SLU’s top scorer with four points at the break.

Three straight points to open the third helped Saint Leo grab its first lead of the ball game at 20-19. After exchanging baskets over the next four minutes of the third, FIT reclaimed its edge off a rebound and put-back by Ebb at the 4:43 mark. Williams’ baseline three increased the Panthers’ lead to four with 18 seconds left, but Mary Redmond’s buzzer beater made it a 32-31 game heading to the fourth.

FIT went on a 9-0 run to extend its advantage to 10 with 7:49 remaining in the fourth. The Panthers jumped up as many as 12 points in the final frame before the teams traded buckets the rest of the way as the Crimson and Gray won its 12th SSC contest of the season, its most since 2006-07.

Florida Tech held the entire Lions roster to single-digit scoring in the win. The league’s top scorer, Chelsy Springs, finished with nine points and eight boards. Royster recorded nine points and five rebounds, and Izabell Skoogh notched seven points. Two other Lions tallied six points in the loss.

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Florida Tech returns to the Clemente Center Wednesday for its season finale against SSC provisional member Palm Beach Atlantic at 5:30 p.m. ET. The Panthers fell to the Sailfish 64-54 on the road in West Palm Beach on Jan. 9.

Wednesday’s game represents the Panthers’ Senior Night Game. The team will honor three student-athletes, BreAnn Davis, Cooper and Flagler, for their service to the women’s basketball program over their career.

Fans can access links to live coverage at FloridaTechSports.com/live