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Complete Effort Leads Panthers to First Win

The dynamic duo of Sesan Russell and Sean Houpt combined for 51 points on Wednesday, leading the Florida Tech Panthers to a 73-60 win over Palm Beach Atlantic at the Clemente Center. It is the first win of the season for the team.

“This was a complete game for us as a team,” said Panthers coach Billy Mims. “I thought we wanted this game more from the opening tip. All thirteen players got in and all of them made a positive contribution tonight.”

Russell led the way with an impressive 27 point performance, going 10-for-16 from the field and 5-for-9 from three. He also had nine rebounds and eight assists. Houpt was good for 24 points on 9-of-18 shooting. He went 4-for-11 from three and pulled down two rebounds.

“I thought when we brought Sean in that they would play well together,” said Mims. “Tonight they did that, and Sesan showed why he is an All-American candidate. He had game-highs in six categories. If that’s not a complete game, I don’t know what is.”

“Sesh and Sean made nine from behind the arc,” Mims continued. “We hadn’t made nine in a single game this season.” 

Despite being in foul trouble from the outset, Mekhii Noble still chipped in with 10 points, hitting five of his six shots from the floor. He also had a block and two steals. Mate Papai pulled down nine rebounds. Mims also wanted to give credit to Stephen Merritt, who came off the bench and contributed one rebound and one blocked shot.

“He was like an anchor tonight for us, he took up a lot of space on the defensive end of the floor and changed a lot of their shots.”

Palm Beach Atlantic got a couple of early threes and jumped out to an 8-4 lead before Houpt answered with the first triple of the night for the Panthers. Free-throws by Russell moments later would give the home squad their first lead of the night, 9-8. 

After Palm Beach Atlantic regained the lead, Houpt would go on a six-point run followed by another three from Russell making it 19-10. The Sailfish would close the gap to 21-17 with 5:53 left in the half. Naill Harris and Russell then hit back-to-back shots for the Panthers and Russell would drain a three to get the lead to 28-17. Consecutive threes from Houpt and Nieja Jordan stretched it to 34-19.

PBA got going at the end of the half, reeling off seven straight points and holding the Panthers scoreless for the final 3:07. That made it 34-26 at the break.

The Sailfish cut the lead to five early in the second half but the Panthers got things rolling again with a Noble dunk that made it 47-36. That was part of a 9-0 run that was capped by a Russell three, expanding the lead to 52-36 with just under 11 minutes left.

Harris and Houpt hit consecutive threes and Russell laid one in to make it 60-42 with 8:08 left. Russell would score the final points of the night for Florida Tech with a three-ball with 2:50 left in the game. That was enough to get the Panthers their first win in what has been a difficult season.

For more info: Palm Beach Atlantic @ Florida Tech Box Score

“We moved the basketball and our passing was crisp,” said Mims. “We only had 13 turnovers and overall, I thought we handled the basketball really well. We stuck to the gameplan start to finish.” 

The Panthers will visit a 4-1 Saint Leo squad on Saturday, March 6 at 2:00 p.m. The Lions are on a roll and hit 18 three-pointers against PBA last Saturday. We will have coverage of the game Saturday on Twitter. Be sure to follow us at @sports_lowdown for the latest updates.