Bucs Fall in Region VIII Semis

Photo by Tom Hagerty
Photo by Tom Hagerty

OCALA, FLA.- The #9 Florida SouthWestern State Buccaneers ran into a buzz saw Friday afternoon in the FCSAA/Region VIII Tournament Semifinals, falling to #5 Gulf Coast State 91-75 to see their 25 game win streak come to an end. 

The tempo was furious early on with the Bucs trying to go toe to toe with the Commodores, who have won two of the last three NJCAA National Championships.  After trading baskets on the first four possessions, Gulf Coast scored six straight to take a 10-4 lead.  FSW couldn't slow the Commodores down as Gulf Coast pushed their lead to 20-13 and then 27-17 at the end of one. 

The Bucs continued to search for answers on how to stop the Gulf Coast attack, but struggled in doing so as their deficit ballooned to 20 midway through the second quarter at 43-23.  FSW scored the final four before the break but the Bucs still faced an uphill battle in the final 20 minutes as they trailed Gulf Coast 46-30 at the half.

FSW shot 41% in the first half, but committed 14 turnovers in the first 20 minutes to hamper their efforts.  Za'Nautica Downs scored half of FSW's points in the half, going for 15 on 4 of 10 from the field while no other Buc had more than four points. 

Downs continued to put forth her best effort in keeping the Bucs in the game, hitting a pair of threes early in the third quarter to make it a 12 point game a minute in.  The Bucs continued to whittle down the Commodores lead and after back to back threes from Downs and Nairimar Vargas-Reyes, it was just a nine point lead for Gulf Coast at 57-48 with 3:12 to go in the period. FSW ended up outscoring Gulf Coast by eight in the quarter, in doing so cutting the Commodores lead in half to eight at 61-53 at the end of three. 

The Bucs scored the first five of the fourth quarter, all via Tina Stephens, and in the blink of an eye, FSW and Gulf Coast were in a one possession game with the Commodores clinging to a 61-58 lead.  But just quick as the Bucs got themselves back into the game, the Commodores went on a 7-0 run of their own to push the lead back to double digits with 6:13 remaining.  FSW had a number of chances late to cut into the lead, but the much bigger Gulf Coast front line refused to be denied on second, third, and even fourth chance opportunities on the glass to finish off the Bucs 91-75.

The Bucs shot 42% in the game and after 14 turnovers in the first half, limited themselves to just two in the second.  The difference though, came on the boards where Gulf Coast outrebounded FSW 50-36 including 23 offensive rebounds for the Commodores. 

Individually Downs led the way with 29 for FSW while Stephens added 13 and Curry 12 for the Bucs. 

FSW sees their 25 game winning streak come to an end as they fall to 29-3 on the year while Gulf Coast improves to 22-5 and advances to the tournament championship game where they will match up with fellow Panhandle Conference member Northwest Florida State.

The Bucs hopes to continue their season are now in the hands of the NJCAA National Tournament at-large committee who will decide the nation's eight most deserving teams on Monday.