Sunday, December 19, 2010

Florida Tech Captures Holiday Tournament Championship

Panthers down West Florida, 73-57, to improve to 10-1 overall

MELBOURNE, Fla. (Women’s Basketball) – West Florida and Florida Tech went toe-to-toe in the Florida Tech/Carmax Holiday Tournament Championship on Sunday, but it was an 8-0 second-half run that proved to be the difference in the Panthers’ 73-57 victory.

Tech (10-1) concludes the first semester on a five-game winning streak, its largest since the 2008-09 Panthers began the season 10-0. West Florida drops to 6-5 overall with the loss.

The tournament finale featured nine ties and 10 lead changes. Tamara Dowdell converted her first of two free throws to tie the game at 50-all with 6:20 to play. Her second gave Florida Tech the lead, which it would not relinquish. Lynisha Nelson and Ashton McClairen connected on back-to-back three-pointers to put Tech ahead by six, 56-50. Briauna Hagins capped off the 8-0 sequence with a layup at the 4:52 mark.

West Florida quickly made it a six-point game following a pair of free throws by Keaundrea Merriewether, however, the Panthers would not allow their visitors from Pensacola to trim their deficit any further. Down the stretch, McClairen and Nelson combined to go 8-for-8 from the free throw line.

“I’m happy for our girls winning three games this week,” Tech head coach John Reynolds said. “The best thing about ending this semester on a win is everyone can now go home and enjoy their holiday break with their families and not think we could have done this or we should have done this.

“West Florida is a very good basketball team. Style wise, I thought we matched-up very well with them. Both teams pushed the ball down the court and had good looks inside the paint. We never gave them an open look today. We always had a hand in the shooter’s face and did not allow them to have a comfort zone.”

Neither team shot the ball well in the first half. West Florida recorded a 28.6 shooting percentage to the Panthers’ 25-percent. The largest lead during the opening period was six points. At intermission, the score was tied 21-21.

McClairen led the Crimson and Gray in scoring with 17. Nelson was right behind her backcourt mate with 16 tallies. The Melbourne Central Catholic graduate also added four rebounds, three assists, one block and five steals. Pacing the squad in the rebounds department was Kristen Dixon, who pulled down five.

“I think we’ve gotten better every game,” Reynolds added. “We’ve made fewer and fewer poor decisions on the offensive end and on the defensive side of the floor. As long as we can continue to improve like that, we’ll have a chance to win some games, but it doesn’t get any easier for us.”

Following the game, an all-tournament team and a tournament MVP were named. Earning all-tournament honors was West Florida’s Octavia Bearden, Palm Beach Atlantic’s Liz Fugate, West Florida’s Jade Howard, Tech’s Lynisha Nelson and Saint Michael’s Logan Pintka. Ashton McClairen was awarded most valuable player after averaging 15.5 points in the two tournament games.

Tech will have the rest of the week off and return to action Dec. 29 when it travels to Winter Park for the four-team, two-day Rollins Holiday Classic. In the opener, the Panthers will play Carson-Newman at 2 p.m. Before they close out 2010, they will wrap up the tournament on Dec. 30 against Anderson University. Tip-off is also scheduled for 2 p.m.

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