Header pic: Cheyenne Scott played her final game as a Panther on Saturday. This was her fifth and final season – Credit: Florida Tech Athletics
Senior Day at the Clemente Center started with honoring seven seniors and ended with a very hard-fought 62-55 loss to No. 17 Eckerd.
Aayana Nedd, Hannah Roney, Irene Vicente, Makyla Daniels, Cheyenne Scott, Fanny Hakanson, and Fanny Paulin were all honored prior to the tip. All seven will be moving on, as they have no eligibility left despite the pandemic.
“Senior day is about those kids that put everything into it,” said Panthers coach John Reynolds by phone after the game. “I have as much love for this team as I’ve had for any teams I’ve coached.”
The two Fanny’s walked out together, as Hakanson returned from an illness that kept her away from the team for much of the season. It was an unexpected surprise for those in the Clemente Center, as Hakanson was not expected to be there in person to celebrate with her fellow seniors.
“I got an email from her this week and she told me she was going to be coming back on Friday so she would be there for Senior Day,” said Reynolds. “It was the happiest moment of the season when I saw that.”
Florida Tech was 17-for-56 from the floor (30.4 percent) They were 7-for-25 (28 percent from three-point range, and an impressive 14-for-18 from the charity stripe.
Roney led the Panthers with 14 points and six assists, to go along with two steals. Paulin had 12 points, four rebounds, and two steals, and Aiste Vaitekunaite had 10 points and a team-leading six rebounds.
The Tritons had four players in double figures led by Nicole Scales 13 points. The team shot 46.9 percent from the floor (23-of-49), They were 9-for-25 (36 percent) from three-point range and 7-for-12 (58.3 percent) from the free-throw line.
The Tritons jumped out to a 10-2 lead and led 23-10 at the end of the first quarter. Vaitekunaite started the second quarter with a three-ball but Eckerd then reeled off nine points and led 33-16 with 2:10 left in the quarter. They would go to the locker room up 36-18 on the Panthers.
A three by Lina Stranger-Johannessen capped a 7-0 run for the Panthers and they closed the gap to 38-27. Eckerd answered with seven unanswered and led 45-27. Florida Tech entered the fourth quarter down 51-33.
Three-pointers by Roney, Vaitekunaite, and Paulin capped an 11-0 spurt by the Panthers and made it 58-53 with 1:05 left. Stranger-Johannessen had a chance to cut it to three but missed the bucket.
“Lina felt bad that she missed that layup but she got the steal, took the shot and she did everything right,” said Reynolds. “I told her it was just one possession out of 70. We had our chances.”
Roney had two free throws to get it back down to five, 60-55 but the Tritons hung on.
For more info: Eckerd @ Florida Tech Box Score
“I gained a lot of respect for these kids today because we played the best defense we’ve played all season,” Reynolds said.
“This group of seniors was committed to each other,” he continued. “It was a difficult season and we couldn’t find our way. We struggled to make a way, but I hope they learn and grow from this experience.”
Sports Lowdown would like to thank coach Reynolds for his willingness to talk following every game, despite the trials and tribulations this season brought. He always took the time win or loss, and it is much appreciated. We would also like to wish the departing seniors all the best in whatever they choose to do.