The Florida Tech Panthers women’s basketball team hadn’t played a game since March 3, 2020. On Friday, that all changed. The Panthers opened their season with a 64-57 win over the Florida Southern Moccasins in Lakeland, FL.
“We haven’t played a game in over 330 days, and we got a lot of new guys,” Reynolds said. “There were times this game looked like a scrimmage or an exhibition game we would play on October 31.”
Severine Uggen scored 13 of her team-leading 15 points in the second half and Florida Tech outscored the Mocs 17-6 in the decisive fourth quarter. Redshirt sophomore Aiste Vaitekunaite and freshman Zoe Murphy had 14 and 13 respectively for Florida Tech.
Fanny Hakanson was a monster on the boards, leading the Panthers with 12 rebounds to go along with her four points.
The Mocs (0-1) started well, but Vaitekunaite got the first Florida Tech three of the season, cutting the deficit to 13-9. The Panthers got three offensive rebounds in a row late in the quarter to make it 16-11 and they were able to get the lead down to one at the end of the quarter after a Makyla Daniels jumper cut it to 16-15. Daniels finished with six points in nine minutes.
“Makyla played with a lot of confidence,” said Reynolds. “I don’t think she was happy with her game, but she has worked hard and it is showing.”
Irene Vicente got the first bucket of the second quarter for the Panthers, giving them their first lead of the game, 17-16. Florida Tech ran into a bit of foul trouble in the quarter and found themselves down 34-24 after a Maddy Morales three. The Panthers were able to fight back with a 6-0 run before a Florida Southern three made it 37-30. A bucket by Murphy and free throws by Paulin made it 37-34 at the break.
The Panthers (1-0) were just 2-for-15 on three’s and had 10 turnovers in the first half. That first half was a lot of turnovers and a lot of bad decisions,” Reynolds said.
A hoop by Uggen just over a minute into the third cut the home teams lead to 37-36 and Mocs’ head coach Betsy Harris called a timeout. A three by Vaitekunaite tied the game at 41, and Uggen scored to make it 43-41 Panthers.
“Once we can identify her role Aste will play a lot more,” Reynolds said. “We know what she’s capable of, we just need to get her minutes. I wasn’t able to use my bench as much as I wanted to.”
Florida Tech outscored FSC 15-14 in the quarter but still trailed 51-47.
That deficit was erased quickly as Uggen’s three to start the quarter made it 51-50. Vaitekunaite followed that with a hoop to give the Panthers a 52-51 lead. That was part of a 10-0 run that saw the Panthers stretch the lead to 57-51, ending with a three out of the hands of Murphy.
“We have a lot of confidence in Murphy,” said Reynolds. “Not just the coaches, but her teammates. The minutes she played were earned.”
Florida Southern got their first basket of the fourth quarter with four minutes gone by. Hakanson’s two free throws upped the lead to 59-54 and the dagger came when Irene Vicente stole the ball and found Murphy who drained a three with 1:49 to go, giving the Panthers a 62-54 lead.
Florida Tech shot 37.5 percent from the floor (21-for-56). They were 6-for-25 from three-point range (24 percent), but were good from the line, going 16-for-20, good for 80 percent.
Florida Tech won the rebounding battle 43-40, but turned the ball over 24 times, while Florida Southern had 19.
“When you can turn the ball over that much and still win, we will take it,” said Reynolds. “We will watch the film and go right back and try to do it again on Sunday.”
For more info: Florida Tech @ Florida Southern Box Score
Reynolds said Florida Southern did an outstanding job getting the gym ready to play in and he was very thankful to the staff for the work they did.
These two teams will meet again this Sunday, February 7. The game is scheduled to start at noon.