The Florida Tech men’s basketball team started the night against Rollins in a deep hole on Wednesday, and despite their best efforts, they couldn’t climb the mountain, losing to the Tars 84-72 on Senior Night. The loss was the ninth in a row for the Panthers.
Junior Derek Murphy registered a double-double, scoring a career-high 40 points and pulling down 10 rebounds. He added two steals, just for good measure. Trey Schaneville scored all 15 of his points in the second half. No other Panther had more than five points.
“I feel bad for Murphy, I really do,” said Panthers coach Billy Mims. “He’s put up All-American numbers all season, and he’s just been a beast this year. The sad thing is to me, he’s a first-team All-Sunshine State Conference performer, he’s an all-region performer, but because of our teams’ struggles, he’s not gonna get the credit he deserves.”
R.J. Coil was the Panthers lone senior player this season, and he was honored before the game. Coil has been out since January 19th with a shoulder injury. He is scheduled to have surgery soon, and the hope is he will make a full recovery.
“He’s a great person from a great family and we really miss him,” said Mims. “I really missed coaching him in the second part of the season. He’s been one of the best rebounders and post players over the last two years, but no matter what happens, he’s going to be great in life, because of the type of individual he is.”
Sesan Russell, who played in his first game at Florida Tech the same night Coil got hurt, did not play on Wednesday, due to a medical issue.
“He’s been the sixth-leading scorer in our league since he joined our team,” said Mims. “He’s been putting up anywhere from 15-20 points a game and he’s been a big factor in our ability to compete lately. Not having him tonight was a huge loss to our team.”
According to Mims, it is unlikely that Russell will play in the teams’ final game of the season on Saturday, at Palm Beach Atlantic.
The loss of Russell was felt immediately Wednesday night, as the Panthers found themselves down 11-2 in the first 4:10 of the game. The Panthers were hurt by the fact that they missed five of their first six free throws they took.
Murphy went on a personal six-point run and get help from a Darius Wright three, to close the gap to 12-11. Murphy would score four more points, getting his team to within three, 20-17 with 9:14 to go.
Connor McKim, who scored 27 points to lead Rollins drilled a three moments later, getting the lead back to six. McKim was a thorn in the Panthers side all night, seemingly shutting down any rally the Panthers would mount.
The Panthers got the lead down to five with 5:39 left in the first half and it seemed they had a chance to make a game of it before the break.
“We were down 26-21 and we played awful but were still in the game,” Mims said. “We just couldn’t make shots. We had a lot of good looks, we just weren’t making them.”
Rollins built that lead up a bit before a Pefanis three with 1:09 left made it 35-28. Rollins would go into the half, up 39-28.
Schaneville got the Panthers off to a good start in the second half, hitting a three, and free throws by Murphy made it 41-35 with 17:31 left. Another three by Schaneville made it 44-40, 4:06 into the half, but Rollins would get it back up to 12 with 13:14 left.
They would keep it between 10 and 11 until Murphy hit a shot and got fouled. He completed the three-point play and just like that it was 72-65. Schaneville came up with another huge three moments later and that made it 72-68.
Unfortunately for the Panthers, Rollins answered that with a 10-2 run and got up 82-70 after a three by Jakobi Bonner with 1:28 to go, and that was the run that essentially ended the game.
For more info: Rollins @ Florida Tech Box Score
Special Recognition: Jesse Youmans who spent two years as a member of the Panthers, was also honored as part of Senior Night, after two years with the team. He joined FIT through Team Impact, an organization that pairs kids with disabilities and illnesses with college teams, as a way to help children and the team, bond and take their minds off the everyday struggles they have to endure. Coach Mims and the team had a great time with Jesse doing many activities and spending time together over the last two years.
The Panthers (8-19, 2-17 SSC) will wrap up the 2019 season on Saturday at PBA. That game will tip off around 4:00 p.m.