Murphy and Pefanis Propel Panthers Over PR-Bayamon

Derek Murphy had a career-high in points (28) and Rebounds (17) in Friday’s victory. Donny Rieber Jr | Sports Lowdown

The Florida Tech Panthers got a career-best 28 points and 17 rebounds, also a career-high, from Derek Murphy and 25 points and five steals from Antonis Pefanis, en route to an 84-59 victory over Puerto Rico-Bayamon on Friday night in the Florida Tech Thanksgiving Tournament.

“A monster game from Murphy and Pefanis,” said Panthers head coach Billy Mims. “I thought those two guys played a tremendous game.”

“Ant had his family here from Greece and he is really stepping forward for us,” said Mims. “He was 4-for-11 from three-point range and is becoming one of the SSC’s premier three-point shooters.”

The win puts the Panthers in the championship game against Concordia-St. Paul, who beat Georgian Court 85-69 in Friday’s first semifinal game.

The Panthers won the rebounding battle 55-27, helped by Murphy’s 17 and R.J. Coil’s 13 while forcing 22 PR-Bayamon turnovers.

Florida Tech (3-1) went down early against the Vaqueros, trailing 5-0, but rebounded to score 10 of the next 12 points and take a 10-7 lead. A Pefanis three made it 13-7, 4:30 into the contest. Two straight hoops by Murphy and free throws by Valur Valsson put the home team up 19-9.

After Bayamon (3-1) cut it to 20-14, Cory Kaplan broke ahead of the pack and dropped down a monster dunk, getting the crowd into the festivities. Murphy then sparked a 7-0 run with a tip-in and a three. A three by Valsson moments later got the Panthers out to a 34-19 lead with 5:59 left in the half.

The Panthers went up 22, 48-26, on a Darius Wright three with 58 seconds left and would go to the locker room up 52-28. Murphy had a double-double at the break, with 19 points and 13 rebounds. He was 7-of-16 from the field.

As a team, Florida Tech shot 42.5 percent over the first 20 minutes, hitting 17-of-40 shots. They were 6-of-18 from three-point range.

“That’s the best 20 minutes of basketball we’ve played all season,” said Mims. “That’s the most consistent we’ve played all season.”

Things did not start well for the Panthers in the second half, as they came out cold. They were outscored 10-4 in the first 10:07 of the half and were outscored 21-14 in the first 12:29 of the second half., as their lead was cut to 63-49 with 9:11 left.

The offense finally got going after that, starting with a Valsson three. He would back that up with a jumper and finish a personal five-point run, and a 10-2 run for the Panthers, to go up 73-50. Valsson would end the day with 13 points and a team-high five assists.

“They cut it to 14 there and I thought we weathered the storm,” Mims said. “This team

Not to be outdone, Pefanis hit a three and drew a foul on a layup, giving him six straight points and giving his Panthers a 79-53 lead with 2:58 to go. They would coast to the finish line from there, scoring 18 points in the final 8:06 of the game.

“We built a 24-point lead at the half and I knew this team (Bayamon) was gonna fight,” said Mims. “This team was undefeated, they’re a good basketball team.”

The Panthers were 12-of-27 (44.4 percent) from the field in the second half and shot 29-of-67 for the game (43.3 percent). They were just 3-of-12 from beyond the arc in the second half and finished 9-for-30 (30 percent).

For more info: PR-Bayamon @ Florida Tech Box Score

With our backs against the wall and them coming back, cutting a 24-point game to a 14-point game, we stepped up and made plays down the stretch to pull away and win by 25,” said Mims. “Later on, that kind of finish under pressure is gonna help us in a tough game.”

PR-Bayamon and Georgian Court will play in the consolation game at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, with the Panthers hosting Concordia-St. Paul in the title game at 4:00 p.m.