The Florida Tech women did not end their regular season on a high note Saturday, dropping an 87-73 decision to the Nova Southeastern Sharks on Senior Day at the Clemente Center.
“You gotta be all in and you gotta be committed,” said Panthers coach John Reynolds after the game. “Senior Day is more of a distraction than it’s worth, to be honest with ya. I might not do Senior Day in our last game of the season next year, I might not do that.”
Senior DeLise Williams led the departing Panthers with 15 points and Markeema Crawford had 11. Tanease Richardson had four and Kareese Johnson had three. Vaughne Chavez-Gray did not score, but she did pull down a rebound in her 10 minutes on the floor. Junior Kailyn Ebb had 12 points.
Florida Tech (11-15, 8-12 SSC) got off to a slow start and just couldn’t recover against a Nova team that made 7-of-14 three’s in the first half and 11-of-24 overall. That was a big contributor to their 57.1 percent shooting effort from the floor. On the other side, FIT scored 40 points combined in the first three quarters and turned in a 33-point fourth quarter that saw them get to within nine points late.
Despite the loss, the Panthers did punch their ticket to the Sunshine State Conference playoffs. They will face the number two seed, Eckerd Tritons in Saint Petersburg on Wednesday.
After Richardson scored the first two points of the game for the Panthers, Nova reeled off 12 straight points. An 8-0 run by the Panthers made it 12-10, but a three by Mary Hirt stretched the Sharks lead to five with 3:04 to go in the first quarter. Skyla Osceola’s three with 42 seconds to go in the quarter put the visitors up 22-16.
The second quarter saw the Panthers only score nine points and they found themselves down 38-25.
“They were wide open in the first half,” said Reynolds of NSU. “When you’re not focused on a game than your focus is somewhere else and when your heart is not in the game then your heart is somewhere else. In the next 10 days they’ll be proof of that, cause some guys won’t be back.”
Nova Southeastern (13-13, 9-11 SSC) widened their lead to as many as 20, 57-37 with a three by Osceola with 3:20 left in the quarter. Alison Hughes then hit a three and Taylor Smith laid one in with 15 seconds to go, giving the Sharks a 26-point cushion. Cheyenne Scott answered with a bucket, getting it back to 24 as the third quarter ended.
With five minutes to go in the game, the Panthers got it down to 20, 73-53 and continued to chip away with a 9-0 run that included back-to-back buckets by Williams, the first being a three. After Gudlaug Juliusdottir got it down to 76-67 and forced Nova to take a timeout.
That proved to be a good timeout as it sparked an 8-0 run and got the lead to 84-67. Gracie Doane then hit back-to-back three’s for the Panthers, making it 86-73, but the clock thwarted any further comeback. Doane finished with 11 points.
Wednesday’s game against Eckerd will tip at 5:30. The Tritons swept the season series from Florida Tech, so the Panthers are going to need to bring everything they have and more if they expect the season to continue beyond Wednesday.