The Florida Tech Panthers are not playing like the 8-18 team their record says they are. Saturday was further proof of that with the Panthers forcing overtime against the 12th-ranked Lynn Fighting Knights before falling in overtime, 76-71. This marks the Panthers eighth loss in a row.
“A lot of people think success is measured in W’s and L’s,” said Panthers head coach Billy Mims. “Tonight was another reason to show you why that’s not true. We didn’t win this game tonight, but with all we’ve gone through and how depleted we are, and how young we are, to do what we did tonight, these young kids keep getting better and the maturity and growth of this team have been phenomenal.”
Nieja Jordan recorded his first double-double as a Panther, scoring 21 points and pulling down 12 rebounds. Sesan Russell had 17 points and Derek Murphy, who fouled out in the last minute of overtime, finished with 15. Antonis Pefanis just reached the double-digit mark, with 10.
Four and a half minutes into the game, Murphy got the crowd on their feet with a thunderous dunk, which at the time put the Panthers up 9-6. Lynn would continue its hot outside shooting, with all four of their field goals coming in the form of three-pointers. They would lead 12-9.
A three by Murphy would cut the Lynn lead to 14-12 and another three less than three minutes later, tied the game at 17. Ryan Peterson would answer for Lynn before both teams went cold for a bit. The game would again be tied at 22 with 5:07 to go in the first half and go back-and-forth from there, with the Fighting knights holding a 31-28 lead at the break.
Jordan’s three with 18:16 to go in the second half tied the game at 33, but as they had all day, Lynn answered with a three from Darius Moore. Pefanis and Valur Valsson then hit consecutive threes, putting the Panthers up 39-36 with 15:30 left.
Lynn would overtake the Panthers and lead by as many as eight when Jamal Palmer drilled a three with 8:23 to go in the game. The Knights would hold that eight-point lead on two more occasions, up 60-52 with 5:43 left in the second half.
The Panthers then went on a 6-0 run to cut it to 60-58, when Jordan hit a jumper with 4:30 to go. The Knights would go up 62-58, but the Panthers had a chance to win late in regulation as they had the ball with 1.5 seconds remaining, but a turnover by Valsson on a high inbound pass, gave Lynn one final shot that fell short and forced overtime.
“We were trying to throw it to the free-throw line where either Antonis or Sesan could catch it at the elbow and shoot it, or if it hit the floor grab it and lay it in. If you look back at it, everything was exactly the way we wanted it, we just through the pass a little too long and neither one of them could get to it.”
The Fighting Knights prevailed in overtime, outscoring the Panthers 12-7 and getting the victory.
For more info: Florida Tech @ Lynn Box Score
Florida Tech will play their final home game of the season on Wednesday against the Rollins College Tars. It will be Senior Night and coach Mims promises a nice tribute to R.J. Coil, who is still recovering from a shoulder injury and will not play.
“This is probably in my 37 years, the saddest Senior Night I’m ever gonna have,” said Mims. “I only have one senior and he won’t even be able to put a uniform on. I love him to death, he’s part of my family forever, I think the world of R.J. and his family and we’re gonna honor him before the game along with our senior cheerleaders, dance team and pep band members and then we’re gonna put the spotlight on one incredible young man in R.J. Coil.”
Tipoff for the Rollins game will follow 30 minutes after the women’s contest ends, somewhere in the 7:30-7-45 range.