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Florida Tech Rolls to Thanksgiving Tourney Title

Header pic: Sesan Russell – Credit: Florida Tech Athletics

Sesan Russell topped Friday’s 32-point performance against Morris College with a 35-point game on Saturday, leading the Florida Tech Panthers to a 110-74 victory over Puerto Rico-Bayamon in the championship game of the Florida Tech Thanksgiving Tournament.

It was the second time this week that Florida Tech got a win over the Vaqueros.

With the win, the Panthers extended their winning streak to six games, and remained unblemished at home, winning their fifth straight at the Clemente Center. 

Russell was 10-of-15 from the floor on Saturday, including a 9-for-11 showing from three-point range and 6-for-6 from the free-throw line. He added five rebounds and five assists, as well. He did all of his damage in 25 minutes.

The 67 points over the two nights of the event were more than enough to win the MVP of the tournament.

“Sesan had almost a perfect game and had an amazing tournament,” said Panthers coach Billy Mims in a phone interview after the game. “If I had left him in, he may have broken the single-game record for threes. Simon Cummings went 12-for-15 and has the record. It was just one of those nights for Sesan, he was on fire.”

Mekhii Noble finished with 18 points and 12 rebounds, notching his seventh double-double of the season and his eighth straight going back to his final game of last season. Runako Ziegler dropped 12 points in just 20 minutes, including 5-for-7 from the floor. He had three rebounds and three assists. Sean Houpt rounded out the double-digit scorers for the Panthers, adding 11 points.

Bryan Gonzalez was the Vaqueros leading scorer with 25 points. He fouled out late, but solidified his spot on the all-tournament team after his 32 point performance Saturday, against Young Harris.

“I knew this was going to be a marquee matchup between Gonzalez and Sesan tonight,” said Mims. They did not disappoint.”

Jeremy Figueroa had 20 points for Bayamon, while Luis Moya had 11.

This game was never in doubt as Houpt and Russell each hit two from downtown and the Panthers raced out to a 12-2 lead. Russell would hit two more threes to put the home team up 20-9 with 13:43 to go in the first half.  Another three from Houpt kicked off a 7-0 run and was bookended by a Ziegler three, putting the Panthers up 27-12.

Russell got another three with 9:59 left and then banged down another one 1:50 later which resulted in a four-point play after he was fouled on the shot. That made it 37-19.

Florida Tech kept the pedal down for the rest of the half, expanding their lead to 61-32 at the break. “The first half was pretty close to a perfect 20,” Mims said.

Tech was 18-of-34 (52.9 percent) from the field in the first half, including 10-for-20 (50 percent) from three-point range. They also hit 15-of-20 free throws, good for 75 percent).

The second half saw the Panthers put up 49 points and the Vaqueros kept fighting, scoring 42 points., including a 6-0 run that cut Tech’s lead to 68-40 with 16:33 left. Gonzalez hit two free throws with 8:59 left and then the Panthers’ offense kicked it into high gear.

After Ziegler hit a three, Russell would go back-to-back from long range. A three-point play from Ziegler would put the finishing touches on a 16-2 run that put the Panthers up 100-57.

Bayamon put together a 12-2 run and it was 102-69 with 3:27 left. Elias Martin made two consecutive shots for the Panthers and Josh Mims knocked down a three as part of his five-point run in the last few minutes of the contest.

For more info: Puerto Rico Bayamon @ Florida Tech Box Score (Championship Game)

 The Panthers ended the night shooting 37-for-67 (55.2 percent)  from the field. They were 16-for-35 (45.7 percent) from long distance and 20-for-31 (64.5 percent) from the line. Florida Tech held a 40-37 advantage on the boards.

This ends a four-game in five-day stretch for Tech that saw them go 4-0 and run their winning streak to five games. They are off until Wednesday, December 1 when they host Florida Southern in a Sunshine State Conference showdown. Tipoff should be shortly after 7:30 p.m.