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Panthers Beat PBA, Keep Playoff Hopes Alive

Header pic credit: Florida Tech Athletics

Florida Tech beat Palm Beach Atlantic in a Sunshine State Conference men’s basketball game on Wednesday. Scoring a crucial 76-64 victory at the Clemente Center. It was the Panthers’ third win in four games, which gives them an outside shot at the SSC Tournament going into Saturday’s regular-season finale.

“I am proud of the way this team is playing,” said Panthers coach Billy Mims during his postgame interview with Jim Mitchell. “We’ve only had one bad game since the Florida Southern game (Jan. 26). This team has turned the corner and we’re playing great basketball.”

Sean Houpt led the Panthers with a double-double, going for 21 points and 12 rebounds. He was 5-for-10 from three-point territory. Runako Ziegler was one rebound short, as he went for 14 points and nine rebounds. Freshman Sam Grant scored 15 points off the bench, and Mate Papai had 13 points and seven rebounds, four assists, and five blocked shots. 

Sesan Russell deserves some love too, despite finishing with just two points. He had eight assists and eight rebounds. “He came over to me during one of the timeouts and said coach, I am sorry I’m not scoring for you tonight, but I’m gonna get the ball to the guys who can.”

Jules Jasmin led three Sailfish in double figures, with 20 points. Will Lee had 12 points and Alexander Gorton finished with 11.

Houpt hit two threes for the Panthers only points in the first 4:55. PBA ran off eight straight points from there and led 15-6. Freshman Josh Mims came off the bench to drill a three with 9:03 left in the half to make it 15-9. 

At that point, Florida Tech (12-12, 6-13 SSC) was shooting 17 percent (4-for-21) after the Mims three. A 6-0 run later in the half cut the PBA lead to 19-17 before Nate Ward made a three to extend the lead to 22-17. 

Mims answered immediately making it 22-20 with 4:50 left in the half. A three by Grant 30 seconds later put Tech in front 23-22, all part of a 10-0 run by the Panthers that made it 27-22.

Grant would hit another three and follow it with a dunk on the next possession to make it 32-24. Papai would hit a layup just before the buzzer and Florida Tech led 34-28 at the half.

“I thought the impact we needed that turned the ballgame around,” said Mims. “When they (Grant and Mims) came in we were three down when they finished the half we were six up.” 

The Sailfish 7-18, 7-12 SSC) started the second half on an 11-3 run to take a 39-37 lead. Florida Tech answered with an 8-0 spurt that included threes by Houpt and Grant, giving the home team a 45-39 lead. A 9-0 run by PBA helped them take a 48-45 lead.

Thee-pointers by Houpt and Ziegler at the 6:09 mark made it 57-50 Florida Tech. Niall Harris would knock one down with 4:32 to go and Florida Tech led 60-52. Houpt and Ziegler would knock down threes with 2:17 left, stretching the Panthers’ lead to 68-56. They would seal things from the free-throw line, making eight down the stretch.

For more info: PBA @ Florida Tech Box Score

After that slow start, the Panthers ended up shooting 40.9 percent from the floor (27-for-66). They were an impressive 13-for-29 from long distance (44.8 percent). That includes 7-for-14 in the second half. 

The Panthers will close out the regular season on Saturday against Eckerd. Senior Day festivities will take place prior to the 4:00 p.m. start.