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Panthers Struggle in Return to Court

The Florida Tech Women’s basketball team returned to the court Saturday for the first time since their 76-66 win over Barry on February 13. They took on Saint Leo on Senior Day, and took one on the chin, losing 74-59.

“Give credit to the opponent,” said Panthers coach John Reynolds. “ We didn’t shoot the ball well and they took us out of our rhythm all day. I thought it was obvious that Saint Leo was better. They got loose balls, they got second-chance points and we got outrebounded 45-28, you can’t win games like that.”

 Senior Fanny Hakanson led the Panthers with 14 points, 12 of those came in the second half. 

She played like a senior today,” said Reynolds of Hakanson. “She played hard and shot the ball well in the second half.”

Sophomore Aiste Vaitekunaite had 11 points at the break and finished with 13. “She had a big game for us,” said Reynolds. Zoe Murphy finished with 13 as well.

Alex Button (14), Amanda Ulrich (12), and Tori Lesko (11) led a balanced Lions scoring attack.

Excuses are not part of coach Reynold’s vocabulary, but there is no denying that being off all that time and having all your practices and seven games postponed, definitely hurt the Panthers in this game.

“These starts and stops are tough on the kids, they are exhausted,” Reynolds said after the game. “We have one practice in 11 days at one point, then we are shut down completely. Covid has changed everything and it is making it tough.”

“That said, everyone is going through it, it is affecting everybody, he continued. “We can’t have excuses, we just have to play.”

The Panthers (2-3) got off to as slow a start as you could in a game, going 3-of-14 from the field. Vaitekunaite made the Panthers’ first basket of the game with 6:18 to go. It was an ugly quarter for both teams as the Lions took 3:13 to score their first points.

Saint Leo (2-1) was helped by a 10-0 run that was broken by a Vaitekunaite three. She ended the quarter with five of the Panthers seven points and it was 19-7 at the end of one.

“We didn’t have an offensive rebound in that quarter,” said Reynolds. 

The second quarter was more of the same as the Lions went on an 8-1 run to start the quarter before Vaitekunaite hit another three with 5:46 remaining. Another 6-0 for SLU followed and Irene Vicente hit a shot, making it 33-13. The Panthers found themselves down 37-19 at the half.

It was a dismal shooting performance as the home team went 6-for-24 from the field (25 percent) in that first half. That included a 2-for-10 showing behind the three-point line.

The struggles continued in the third quarter as Saint Leo outscored the Panthers 23-14. Murphy had eight points, including two three-pointers. SLU led 60-33.

Florida Tech got three-pointers from Hakanson and Lina Stranger-Johannessen in the first two minutes of the fourth quarter. There is no quit in the Panthers’ game and they proved that in the final 10 minutes, outscoring the Lions 26-14. 

Senior Riley Doyle-Odenbach had a three as well, which was nice to see on Senior Day. Florida Tech hit five as a team, contributing to their big fourth quarter.

For more info: Saint Leo @ Florida Tech Box Score

The Panthers are right back at it Sunday with a game against Barry. That may work to their advantage.

“No time to dwell on this one, and no time to go back and look at it,” said Reynolds. “It’s about what we do and we just have to go out and play. We can’t worry about what our opponent is doing.”

Sunday’s scheduled start time in Miami Shores is 4:00 p.m.