Runako Ziegler – Credit: Florida Tech Athletics
The Florida Tech Panthers honored their seniors on Saturday before beating the Eckerd Tritons 93-86 at the Clemente Center in the men’s basketball regular-season finale. With the victory, the Panthers earned a spot in the Sunshine State Conference Tournament as the eighth seed.
Runako Ziegler scored 26 points and six rebounds to lead the Panthers, who had four players in double figures. Niall Harris had 15 points and six rebounds. Sean Houpt and Sam Grant had 12 apiece.
Florida Tech (13-12, 7-13 SSC) shot 51.8 percent for the game, boosted by a 53.13 percent first half. They made 29-of 56 shots, including 14-for-29 (48.3 percent) from beyond the arc. They were 21-for-26 from the free-throw line (80.8 percent)
Eckerd (5-18, 3-17 SSC) took a quick 5-0 lead and led 24-18 with 11:03 left in the first half. Houpt would hit two threes with one by Grant in between, giving the Panthers a 27-25 lead with 8:57 to go in the half. It was the first lead of the day for the Panthers. Grant’s three with 6:01 to go, putting the Panthers up 34-25.
The Tritons would score seven straight to close the gap to 34-32 with 3:21 left. The Panthers scored the next five-point and after Eckerd got a couple back, Grant hit another three to make it 42-34. He wasn’t done, as he drained another three with eight seconds to go in the half, giving Tech a 47-37 lead at the break and ending the half on a 13-5 spurt.
Florida Tech would score nine of the first 11 points to start the second half and led 56-39 after a three-pointer by Harris. Sesan Russell and Harris would each hit a three to extend the Panthers lead to 62-45 with 14:02 left.
A three by Ziegler with 10:34 left got the Panthers lead to 23, 69-46. Josh Mims would hot one with 9:58 to go, upping the lead to 72-48. Ziegler’s layup made it a 26-point cushion 19 seconds later. A 10-0 run by the Tritons made it 74-58.
Mate Papai hit a free throw before Mims drained another three to make it 78-58 with less than seven minutes left. To the Tritons’ credit, they battled back with a 16-4 run to close the gap to 82-74 with 3:32 left.
That was as close as the visitors would get as the Panthers closed the game out from the free-throw line.
For more info: Eckerd @ Florida Tech Box Score
The Panthers finished eighth in the conference and will play the undefeated Nova Southeastern Sharks (25-0, 20-0) in the opening round of the SSC tournament on Tuesday, March 1 at 7:00 p.m. The game will be played in Fort Lauderdale.