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Panthers Escape With Win Over PR Bayamon in Thanksgiving Classic

Darius Wright was 5-for-5 behind the arc Friday, finishing with 18 points

The Florida Tech men’s basketball team finished an exciting night of basketball, beating Puerto Rico Bayamon 84-77 in the second game of the Florida Tech Thanksgiving Classic. The Panthers victory came after Union (TN) took down North Greenville 69-59 in game one.

The Panthers secured their spot in Saturday’s title game against Union, thanks to 24 points from Sam Daniel and 22 points and 21 rebounds coach Billy Mims “Man of the Match”, Richard Coil. Coil had his double-double sewn up by halftime, scoring 12 points and pulling down 11 boards.

He had 12 offensive rebounds, giving us 13 second-chance points,” said Mims. “He was 10-for-13 shooting tonight, with three assists, two blocked shots, and one steal. Just a monster game.”

Florida Tech (2-4) was on a see-saw early in this one, with Puerto Rico Bayamon staying right with them through the first 5:44 of the game. A three by Ricardo De Jesus tied things up 10-10, before the Panthers went on a 21-0 run, capped by a three-pointer by Daniel with 7:37 to go in the half.

Florida Tech extended their lead to 23 after Darius Wright hit the second of his five three-pointers on the night, giving the Panthers a 44-21 lead with 2:23 to go. That’s when the wheels came off. Sharpshooter De Jesus and teammate Luis Gonzalez combined to take the Vaqueros on a 13-0 run to end the half, with De Jesus hitting a three at the buzzer sending his team to the locker room trailing, 44-34.

“There were probably a few people that would’ve loved to be a fly on the wall at halftime,” said Mims. “I was not a happy camper when I got there because we had built a 23-point lead with 2 1/2 to go and then gave up a 13-0 run and they had all the momentum in the world going to halftime.”

Much of the Vaqueros damage during that 13-0 run came with Valur Valsson, Jordan Majors and Mike Milligan on the bench for the Panthers because of foul trouble. Majors was whistled for a foul with 1:43 to go and then picked up a technical for arguing it, forcing Mims to remove him from the proceedings.

De Jesus was pretty much a one-man wrecking crew for the visitors in the first half. He scored 17 of his teams 34 points and hit 4-of-8 from long range. Daniel and Coil each had 12 points at the half, to pace the Panthers.

The halftime talk didn’t do much to kill that momentum, as Bayamon came out and scored the first eight points, highlighted by three balls from Nathaniel Martinez and De Jesus, cutting the Panthers lead to 44-42 in the first 1:59 of the second half. A three by Wright broke up the run, but that proved to be a short-lived stop-gap as the Vaqueros proceeded to rattle off another six straight points to take a 48-47 lead with 15:40 to go in the contest.

“At that point over a span of about seven minutes, they had outscored us 27-3,” said Mims. “We opened the door and Bayamon jumped right in and turned it into a great basketball game.”

Another three by De Jesus put Bayamon up 51-49. A couple threes by Daniel kept the visitors from going on another run. He tied the game at 55 with 12:15 to go with his second three in about 40 seconds. He hit another one with 11:30 to go, giving the Panthers a 60-55 lead.

After building an 81-68 advantage, Puerto Rico reeled off six straight, but in the end, the Panthers were able to hold them off.

“We came back, we showed a lot of character and I’m proud of the guys for that,” Mims said.

For more info: PR Bayamon @ Florida Tech Box Score

On Saturday, the Panthers will have to focus on shutting down Tyree Boykin, who led Union with 20 points in game one on Friday.

Saturday’s title game tips off at 5:30, following the consolation game between PR Bayamon and North Greenville at 3:00 p.m.