The Florida Tech Panthers led for much of the night on Saturday, but a runner in the lane with 10.2 seconds left by Kyran McClure helped the visiting Saint Leo Lions steal one at the Clemente Center, winning by the score of 74-72.
Florida Tech (10-12, 5-9 SSC) had four players in double figures, led by Jordan Majors 22. Patrick Anderson had 17, Valur Valsson finished with 13 and a team-high six assists, while Sam Daniel contributed 10 points. RJ Coil finished with seven rebounds to lead the team, but the Panthers were beaten badly on the boards as a team, 37-22.
“Usually if we get four guys in double figures that’s a good thing and we normally win those types of games,” said Panthers assistant coach DeMario Robinson after the game. “Today we just made a lot of mental mistakes down the stretch, we got comfortable with our lead and they did what they were supposed to do, they got stops and they were scoring.”
The early part of the game was a see-saw affair with the Lions leading scorer Daniel Duarte hitting a three to make it 12-10 with 14:16 left in the first half. A layup by Drago Popovic made it 14-10, but a basket by Coil and a three-ball by Majors made it 15-14 with 11:36 to go and snapped a 0-for-6 drought behind the arc for the Panthers to start the game.
A three-ball by Michael Milligan later in the half gave the Panthers a 23-20 lead and they led 36-30 with 2:28 to go before the Lions made a bit of a run, highlighted by a nice reverse layup by Duarte to make it 39-36 Panthers at the break.
Duarte had 16 at the half and finished with a team-high 22. He was 8-for-10 from the field and 6-of-8 from three-point range.
Majors, Valsson, and Anderson hit early three’s to start the second half and the Panthers were up 50-41 with 16:46 to go in the contest. Anderson would strike again from deep with 15:08 to go, giving his squad a 55-45 lead. A dunk by Junior Searcy would make it a 55-50 game, but a three by Valsson moments later got the lead back to nine, 59-50.
Majors would hit another three with 12:10 remaining, giving the Panthers their largest lead of the game, 62-50 and capping a 7-0 run for Florida Tech. Anderson’s three with 8:44 to go gave the home team a 67-55 lead, but Duarte answered that moments later and sent the Lions on an 8-0 run of their own.
A basket by Nieja Jordan 5:54 to play made it 69-63 but a layup by Popovic and two free-throws by McClure made it 69-67. Popovic made two from the charity stripe, tying it at 69. Majors then took matters into his own hands getting the hoop and the harm and the Panthers were up 72-69 with 2:52 to go.
Duarte rose up and drained a three with 1:01 left, tying things up at 72. A missed three by Daniel sent McClure on his way and he hit the shot to put his team up 74-72. Majors drove the ball down and had a good look as he charged toward the basket, but his shot didn’t fall. Coil got the rebound and tried to put it home, but he missed. He grabbed the rebound again, but being off-balance he couldn’t get another shot off before the buzzer sounded.
For more info: Florida Tech @ Saint Leo Box Score
Even though the Panthers got a couple offensive rebounds at the end of the game, Saint Leo dominated that category 14-4.
“I thought we played a pretty good game early on and then the last seven minutes or so, we just lost focus,” Robinson said. “We were up 62-50 and scored 10 more points the last 12 minutes of the game. You can’t win in this league like that, you just can’t. We didn’t play the full 40 minutes and it cost us.”
The Panthers will travel to Tampa Wednesday to take on the 8-13 Spartans. That game will tip at around 7:30 p.m.