Header pic: Sesan Russell – Credit: Florida Tech Athletics
The Florida Tech Panthers won their fifth straight game on Friday, dispatching the Morris College Hornets in a big way, 95-66 in the Florida Tech Thanksgiving Tournament.
The Panthers will face Puerto Rico Bayamon in Saturday’s championship game. The Vaqueros hung on to beat Young Harris in the tournament’s opening game on Friday, 72-70.
Sesan Russell led the Panthers with 32 points, to go along with four rebounds and six assists, and three steals. He was 9-for-20 from the field, including 6-for-13 from three-point range. All of this while not turning the ball over.
That’s the Sesan we know and love,” said Panthers coach Billy Mims said by phone after the game.
Russell was one of four Tech players in double figures, including Mekhii Noble who has had a double-double in all six games this season. He finished with 11 points, 14 rebounds, and two assists.
He’s turned into a special player,” Mims said of Noble. “He’s come a long way and his development is off the charts. We are gonna have a full season this year and he’s gonna impress people all year. He’s one of, if not the best post player in the SSC.”
“I thought we got a big lift from our bigs,” he continued. “Mekhii and Mate (Papai) had double-doubles but they were very, very good in the first half and on the glass.”
Papai had 11 points and 12 rebounds, while Runako Ziegler had 12 points and four assists.
The home team outrebounded the Hornets, 55-37 for the game, and they were 11-for-28 from downtown as a team, something Mims was glad to see.
“We had five players hit at least one three and that’s what we’ve been lacking,” he said. A lot of guys made shots that we are going to need moving forward.”
Morris College (4-3) is an NAIA school out of South Carolina. They were led by Armani Thomas who had 24 points, and Elijah Jackson, who had 12. The Hornets will take on Young Harris in the tournament consolation game at 1:30 on Saturday.
They were 22-for-72 from the field (30.6 percent). They hit seven out of 29 three-pointers (24.1 percent) and went 15-for-23 from the free-throw line, good for 65.2 percent.
Morris hung with the Panthers early in this game. Tech went up 7-2 only to see the Hornets come back to tie it up during a stretch that saw the Panthers go 0-for-5 from the field. Russell would then dunk one home and that kickstarted the Panthers 7-0 run that made it 16-7.
The visitors trimmed the Panthers lead to three, 18-15 before Florida Tech went on an 11-1 run that included threes from Russell and Josh Mims, making it 29-16. Morris would get to within 10 a couple of times before the half, but the Panthers went to the locker room up, 45-33.
After Morris scored the first points of the second half, Florida Tech reeled off seven straight and led 52-35 with 17:47 to go.
Russell would hit another three with 15:34 to go, putting his team up 57-40. That sparked a 22-4 run that included two more threes from Sesan with 12:01, and 8:57 left. That made it 76-44, and the Panthers were able to put it into cruise control from there.
Jacob Crockett put the exclamation point on things with a big slam with about 2:50 to go, scoring the Panther’s 90th point in the process. He finished with five points.
For more info: Morris College @ Florida Tech Box Score
Stater Sean Houpt dislocated his pinky on his non-shooting hand in this game. It was popped back into place by the Orthopedic surgeon, but Mims decided to keep him on the bench, hoping he would be good to go for Saturday.
Florida Tech was 36-for-77 from the field (46.8 percent), including 11-for-28 (39.3 percent) from long range. They went 12-for-18 (66.7 percent) from the free-throw line. Second-chance points were 22-12 in favor of the Panthers and 24-19 in bench points. They also dominated points in the paint, 48-26.
Puerto Rico Bayamon and the Panthers will meet for the second time in four days when they play for the title on Saturday. Florida Tech won Tuesday’s matchup 73-47.
“I think they are doing things better but so are we,” Mims said. “It’s a bigger game tomorrow because it’s a championship game. They are a good basketball team and are mentally tough. They have smart players and it will be a great game.
The title game is scheduled for 4:00 p.m., following the consolation game.