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Tiffin Holds Off Furious FIT Comeback

Donny Rieber Jr | Sports Lowdown Derek Murphy had a career-high 34 points in Wednesday’s loss.

Despite a 16-0 run late in the game Wednesday, the Florida Tech Panthers lost 78-74 to the Tiffin Dragons, in the final game of the 2018 Florida Tech Winter Classic. 

Panthers Head Coach Billy Mims sat down with his daughter Courtney, following the game for his postgame interview. Courtney was the color commentator on the broadcast, with Jim Mitchell. 

“If we’d have had five more minutes to play tonight, I think we’d have come back and won the game,” he said. “We ran out of time, we didn’t run out of effort.” 

Derek Murphy, who had 33 points in a loss to Tampa back on December 8, set a new career-high Wednesday with 34. He was 13-of-26 from the floor and hit three of his six long-range shots. His 13 rebounds led the team as well, giving him another double-double this season. 

“What a monster game he had tonight,” said Mims. “He shot 50 percent from the field, 50 percent behind the arc and had five steals, as well.” 

R.J. Coil finished with 14 points and nine rebounds, and Antonis Pefanis had 12 points, most of them coming in the Panthers big run at the end of the game. 

Things started well for the Panthers who ran off nine straight points, helped by threes from Murphy and Pefanis. Tiffin got four points back before Pefanis drilled another three to make it 12-4. Coil’s three with 13:25 left in the half gave the home team a 17-4 lead. 

A layup by Murphy made it 21-8 with 8:50 gone in the contest and the Panthers got up 26-11, after Murphy made a three with 9:04 left. At that point, things looked good for the Panthers, but Tiffin was down, not out. 

The Dragons (5-7) went on a 20-5 run to end the half and in the process erased that 15 point spread, tying the game at 31 at halftime. 

“I told our guys when we went to the locker room, that you just did the worst thing you could possibly do, you gave a team hope,” said Mims. “We gave a team we were putting away hope and I said hope is a dangerous thing.” 

Murphy led the Panthers with 14 points and five rebounds through the first 20 minutes. Tiffin had four players with five points. The Panthers shot themselves in the foot with 14 turnovers. 

Joshua Williams three-ball 12 seconds into the second half, gave the Dragons their first lead of the night, 34-31. Things went back-and-forth for a bit and Tiffin led 41-39 with 16:33 to go. a 10-2 run by Tiffin followed and they were up 51-41 with 13:59 to go.  

After the Panthers (6-4) made it 51-47, the Dragons got rolling again with 13-2 run and they boosted their lead to 64-49 with 9:16 left. 

Tiffin went up as many as 19, grabbing a 73-54 lead on a Joshua Williams three, with 4:51 to go. Williams was Tiffin’s leading scorer with 16. He was 3-of-8 behind the arc. 

Pefanis, who took four shots in the first half, was very quiet until late in the game, hitting a three with 4:07 to go, cutting the Dragons lead to 73-58.  

Valur Valsson’s triple made it a 73-63 game and Pefanis would hit another bomb to cut the Panthers deficit to 73-67 with 2:25 left. Moments later, it was Valsson’s turn again and his three cut it to 73-70 with 2:12 to go, and capped a 16-point outburst. 

Unfortunately, the Panthers were plagued by turnovers down the stretch and they went cold at the wrong time. They would not score again until there were 17 seconds left in the game and fell 78-74. 

“I thought for the bulk of the second half, Tiffin outworked us,” said Mims. “They built a big lead and down the stretch, we had to press and trap to get back in the game. Our kids never quit, but maybe it’s my fault, maybe I should’ve started pressing and trapping sooner.” 

For more info: Tiffin @ Florida Tech Box Score 

Next up for the Panthers is a December 30th meeting with Barry University, who made it to the Elite Eight last year and are ranked in the top 20 right now. This begins a stretch of 18 straight conference games for the Panthers to finish the 2018-2019 regular season. Tipoff for the Barry game is set for 4:00 p.m. 

After Barry, the Panthers come home to take on Florida Southern, another top 20 team on January 2nd, at 7:30 and they close out a very tough stretch on January 5th at home, against Nova Southeastern, who are 9-0 and ranked 10th in the nation, heading into their December 29th meeting with #10 Florida Southern.