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Starters Propel Panthers Past Lynn

Pic credit: Florida Tech Athletics

The Florida Tech men’s basketball team got their first win since December 19 on Saturday, beating Lynn 84-78 in Boca Raton.

“I expected it to be that kind of game because every game in the SSC is tough,” said Panthers head coach Billy Mims by phone after the game. “It was big for us because this team has been playing great basketball and has made progress. They have a lot of fight left in them.”

All five Florida Tech starters finished in double digits with Sean Houpt and Runako Ziegler scoring 24 points each. Houpt was 6-for-12 from the field, including 5-for-9 from three-point range. He was 7-for-9 from the charity stripe and pulled down three rebounds.

Ziegler was 9-for-12 from the field and 2-for-2 from long range, and 4-for-5 from the line. He added seven rebounds, five assists, and three steals. Niall Harris finished one rebound shy of a double-double with 14 and nine, while Sesan Russell had 11 points and six assists. Mate Papai was good for 10 points and six rebounds.

“Lynn beat us at home a few weeks ago and two of their best players were out,” said Mims. “Tonight they were at full strength, we held their leading scorer (Christian Peevy) to six points and two rebounds and held Cameron Gaines to five points. This team we beat tonight was stronger but we came out on fire and played our best defensive half of the season in the first twenty.”

The Panthers (10-11, 4-12 SSC) had three-pointers from Russell and Houpt as part of an 11-0 run to start the game.  Lynn battled back with a 14-6 run and was down 17-14 with 10:54 left in the half.

Another three by Russell extended the lead to six and sparked a 12-0 run that put the Panthers in front 29-14 with 6:40 left. Threes by Ziegler, Houpt and Russell made it 38-17. Lynn made a bit of a run late in the half, but the Panthers went to the locker room up 44-29.

Florida Tech upped their lead to 52-35 before Lynn hit back-to-back threes five minutes into the half. They would eventually cut the lead to 10, 53-43 with 14:25 left. Lynn cut the lead to 58-50 with 9:34 to go, before Papai hit a jumper to get it back to 10.

Consecutive threes by Harris and Ziegler made it 68-54. A three by Houpt with 5:37 to go was followed by a Ziegler layup to make it a 17-point spread.

A 7-0 run by Lynn brought it back to 10 with 2:57 left. Lynn did not go quietly. A three by Brandon Bornelus drained a three with 47 seconds left, making it a 78-72 game. The teams traded free throws to make it 80-74. 

Branden Ellis made two free throws and trimmed the Panthers’ lead to 81-78. Houpt added one free throw, making it a four-point game. The Panthers got a huge block by Elias Martin on Lynn’s final possession. The loose ball was picked up by Darragh O’Sullivan with two seconds left. He found Ziegler, who put the exclamation point on the game at the buzzer, giving the Panthers the 84-78 victory.

For more info: Florida Tech @ Lynn Box Score

Mims said he mapped out four keys to victory before the game. The team needed to defend well and they did, holding the Fighting Knights to 29 points in the first half. The second was to beat Lynn on the boards and they did, 32-29. 

He wanted them to control the tempo and they did for much of the game, and they needed to shoot well. They did that as well, shooting 28-for-59 from the field (47.5 percent), including 11-for-20 (55 percent) from behind the arc. 

“Our assistant coaches all did a tremendous job breaking down Lynn and putting a game plan together,” said Mims. “Our kids did everything we asked of them and I couldn’t be more proud of this team.”

The Panthers return home Wednesday night to take on Barry in another Sunshine State Conference game. The tip will be shortly after 7:30, following the women’s game.