Panthers Hold Off Embry Riddle For 102-97 Road Win, Complete Season Sweep Over Eagles
By Alan Zlotorzynski, Assistant Editor // February 19, 2017
Panthers move to 14-12 overall
BREVARD COUNTY • MELBOURNE, FLORIDA – With a 9-4 record by the Christmas break, Florida Tech began the season strong. Following a hard fought 102-97 road win at Embry Riddle on Saturday night, it appears as if the Panthers are on track to finish that way as well.
A strong first half by Florida tech was the catalyst for the team’s second straight win. The Panthers entered the locker room following the first 20-minutes with a 51-36 advantage.
The win over Embry Riddle was also the third straight over the Eagles. Florida Tech has yet to lose at the ICI Center which is located on the campus at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach.
During the first half, Florida Tech shot nearly 58 percent from the field. With many of his family members on hand, having made the drive down to Daytona from Kingsland, Georgia, forward Sam Daniel led the way for Florida Tech playing an impressive two-way game.
The junior forward, who leads the Sunshine State Conference had 25-points to go along with seven rebounds, one block, two steals and two assists.
Including Daniel’s performance, even more impressive for head coach Billy Mims, was all five starters scored in double digits.
Senior guard Rafael Casanova, who earned the start following his 20-point off the bench effort in Wednesday’s win over Lynn, scored 15 more points on Saturday. Once in the line-up, it’s hard to take a good player out. Casanova, a native of Seville, Spain played all 40 minutes in the contest.
Redshirt junior guard Jordan Majors is second behind Daniel’s in the SSC in scoring ,was four of seven beyond the arc and also grabbed five rebounds, five assists and four steals.
Pat Anderson, who sits just outside the top 10 in overall scoring in the SSC with 15.4 points per game, finished a point behind Majors with 18 and added five rebounds, four assists, and one steal. Motown native, sophomore forward Derek Murphy had 16-points in 32 minutes.
Former Melbourne Bulldog, senior Robert Booth came off the bench and was 4-4 from the floor. He led the Panthers with eight rebounds and notched nine points in just 14-minutes of action.
Florida Tech’s 15-point halftime lead grew to a game-high 18 points (56-38) less than a minute into the second half and FIT still held a comfortable 96-83 with a little over a minutes to play in the contest.
“I was really impressed with our defensive effort in the first half which led to our 15 point halftime lead said Florida Tech head coach Billy Mims.”
“In the earlier game in Melbourne, Skyler Hogan (ERAU’s leading scorer on the season) had a big game scoring 29 points. Tonight, we held him to only 9 points for the game and 1-7 shooting in the first half as we built our lead.”
Coach Mims likes to say “Basketball, at any level, is a game of runs” and Embry Riddle made a few during the game’s final stretch. The Eagles first run doubled up the Panthers 14-7 and cut the lead to six points with 5:31 to play in the contest.
The Panthers would slow Embry Riddle’s comeback effort with a 6-0 run of their own to push the lead back to 12 points at 90-78 with 3:33 to play.
The runs continued, as Embry Riddle went on a furious one in the final 60 seconds. Embry Riddle’s 14-5 run in the final minute cut the Panthers deficit to just four points (101-97) with 11-seconds to play.
That was the closest the Eagles would get, as Robert Booth sank one of his two free throws to extend the margin to five points. The Eagles got one last shot off but missed and Florida Tech held on for the 102-97 win.
Coach Mims was indeed happy with his team’s overall effort. ” Tonight, we defended well, rebounded well, and didn’t turn the ball over. Those are crucial to win on the road. Our offensive execution was also outstanding as we got great shots and finished 54 percent from the floor.”
“Since all SSC tourney games will be on the road, I’m very proud of how well we played in our final regular season game away from the Clemente Center”, Mims added.
The Panthers are now 14-12 overall. The bad news is that there are only two games to play in the regular season. The good news is both contests are at the Clemente Center where the Panthers are an impressive 10-4 this season.
With two more wins the Panthers would reach eight SSC conference wins and likely be in position to move onto to the conference tournament.
The first of the two final contests is Wednesday night vs. Tampa University.
The Panthers will look to get revenge for a 30-point loss they suffered to them back on Dec. 10. The team bus broke down on the way to game forcing a late start and knocking the Panthers off their pre-game routine.
The Panthers will need to do better on the glass in this contest than they did back in December as Tampa outrebounded the Panthers 45-25 in the game. No FIT player grabbing more than four boards.
The Panthers will look to complete the season series sweep of Palm Beach Atlantic in the final game of the season next Saturday, which is also “Senior Night” for the Panthers.
With such a young team, only four players will be honored before the scheduled 7:30 tip. Melbourne High’s Robert Booth, Merritt Island High’s Max Fischer, Podgorica, Montenegro native Miki Rajovic and Rafael Casanova.
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