The Florida Tech Panthers (2-3) had to do some schedule juggling this week as their scheduled game against Rollins was canceled. They instead played host to Florida Southern Wednesday night, beating the Moccasins 79-75 at the Clemente Center.
Sesan Russell led the Panthers, who had four scorers in double figures. He had 21 points, 12 rebounds, nine assists, and four steals. Trey Schaneville came off the bench to give the Panthers 16 points. He was an impressive 5-for-10 from outside and contributed three steals.
“Trey was almost immeasurable,” said Mims. “He had four huge threes in the first half and Nako had four layups in the first half. “We got 20 points off the bench, and George Nehma was like the QB of our offense. He was talking, directing traffic, and had three steals and rebounds.”
Niall Harris had 12 points and three rebounds, Runako Ziegler put up 11 points on 5-of-8 shooting, and Mate Papai had points, going 4-for-5 from the floor with eight rebounds and three blocks.
“I am really proud of all three of those guys off the bench,” Mims continued. “Our bench outscored theirs, 30-11.”
Florida Southern (3-4) had three guys in double figures, led by E.J. Dambreville who had 22 points and 18 rebounds. His 19 second-half points kept the Moccasins close. Jalyn Hinton finished with 19 points, and Xavier Rhodes ended the night with 17.
This was a game of extended runs as the Panthers and Moccasins would each watch as the other team got out to a decent lead and the other team would answer with one of its own. Thankfully for Florida Tech, their last run was just big enough that Florida Southern couldn’t complete the comeback.
Harris and Sean Houpt hit early threes for the Panthers and they went up 6-4. Two more hoops by Harris gave the home team a 12-8 lead. Dambreville would later tie the game at 16. With that basket, he started what amounted to a 17-0 run. He would drain a three at the end of the barrage to give the Mocs a 33-16 lead with 8:02 left in the half.
Following the media timeout, Schaneville immediately hit a three and the Panthers were off and running. Russell would hit a three to tie it at 35 and Schaneville would hit two more threes to make it 41-37. A 30-5 Panthers run ended with another Schaneville three and he ended the first half with another three and the Panthers led 46-38 with 1:00 left in the first stanza.
The Panthers scored the final seven points in the first half, starting with that Schaneville three, and went to the locker room with a 50-38 lead.
Florida Tech picked up right where they left off to start the second half, getting trees from Harris, Ziegler, and Schaneville, extending their lead to 66-43 with 11:12 to go in regulation.
The visitors weren’t done, as they battled back with a 20-2 that closed the gap to 68-63 with 6:03 remaining.
“We were really rolling at one point, but “I’ll be honest, three things hurt us in the second half, Mims said. “I promised to get everyone in the game and when we were up big I substituted freely, and I think it disrupted our rhythm. We also didn’t shoot well, we went from shooting 51 percent in the first half to 29 percent in the second half and our free-throw shooting was not good at all. Those things helped Florida Southern get back in the game.”
Dambreville’s three with 4:24 to go gave FSC a 70-69 lead. Free throws by Ruddell gave the Panthers a one-point lead and a big put-back by Mate Papai after his offensive rebound made it 73-70 with 2:01 to go. A big rebound on the defensive end by Schaneville led to a bucket for Nieja Jordan and a 75-70 lead for the Panthers.
A block and a defensive rebound for Papai were both huge plays for the Panthers late in the game.
“Mate had a game-high in blocks with three blocks and he was a defensive anchor in the middle of the floor for us,” said Mims. “With Mate on the floor we were 12 points better, when Trey was out there we were 15 better, and Nehma was a-plus 18.”
With the score 76-75 after Papai’s block, Harris got a rebound and Russell was fouled with 1.8 seconds left. He made one, and Harris gobbled up another rebound with half a second left. He made both free throws, securing the four-point victory for the Panthers.
“We call him sneaky Niall because he is one of the sneakiest offensive rebounders on the planet,” said Mims. “He snuck right in and grabbed that rebound with under a second left and that ended the game.”
For more info: Florida Southern @ Florida Tech Box Score
The Panthers are scheduled to finish the regular season Saturday against Tampa at the Clemente Center. That game will tip-off at 2:00 p.m.
Tomorrow, the Sunshine State Conference will hold a blind draw to see when and where the SSC Tournament quarterfinals will take place. That tournament will get underway on Tuesday. There will be seven teams drawn with the first team receiving an automatic bye into the semifinals. The other six teams will be drawn to play those quarterfinal games. You can watch that draw at 4:00 p.m. Thursday, on the SSC Digital Network.