PANAMA CITY, Fla.- The #8 Florida SouthWestern State Buccaneers continued their challenging early season schedule this weekend as they took part in the Visit Panama City Classic Tournament in the Florida Panhandle. The Bucs came out like gangbusters on Friday, putting it to #21 Georgia Highlands to the tune of a 97-68 victory to advance to the tournament championship game. Saturday they got what they wanted, a rematch against #1 ranked Gulf Coast State and in a near mirror image of their contest a week ago against the Commodores, FSW controlled the pace most of the game before falling late 64-62 to drop to 2-2 on the year.
The Bucs jumped out to a big early lead against the Lady Mustangs on Friday, taking a 26-12 lead over #21 Georgia Highlands after one quarter of action. The 'Stangs returned the favor in the second as FSW struggled to put the ball in the hole, cutting the Bucs lead down to five at the break at 38-33.
FSW put the game away early in the third, leaning on the hot shooting of Za'Nautica Downs and Sheslanie Laureano to push their lead to double digits and eventually to 18 at the end of three at 66-48. The Bucs remained hot in the fourth, scoring 31 points in the final 10 minutes to put the game away, winning 97-68 to remain unbeaten on the year.
The Bucs shot 44% on the night, getting 31 from Downs and 22 from Laureano in the process. Laureano also came up with 11 rebounds to record her first double-double as a Buc. FSW got contributions off their bench from both Anissa Tuitt and Adonne' Tillman who combined for 25 points on 8 of 10 shooting for the Bucs.
The win set the Bucs up for exactly what they had waited for all week, a chance for redemption against #1 Gulf Coast, who erased a 19 point lead opening weekend to stun FSW in overtime in Suncoast Credit Union Arena.
While their first matchup was a shootout, points were a little tougher to come by in Saturday's battle. FSW grinded out a 13-9 lead after one quarter of action and pushed their lead to double digits before the half at 32-20.
Like they did in the first contest, the Bucs ballooned their lead all the way to 19 early in the second half before the Commodores sliced it back to 11 after three at 52-41. That's when things went South for FSW as they battled foul trouble, an injury, and ice cold shooting with Gulf Coast making their push for a comeback. The Bucs nursed the lead into the closing moments of the game, but as they did the first time around, Gulf Coast leveled things up in the final minute and this time connected on a shot late in regulation to sneak away with a 64-62 win and stun FSW for the second time in a week.
The Bucs held a high powered Gulf Coast attack to just 36% shooting in the game, but only managed to connect on 38% themselves in the loss. FSW hurt themselves at the line where they left nine points, shooting just 55% on the afternoon. Laureano dialed up another valiant effort while battling through an ankle injury, scoring a game high 19 while also pulling down 9 rebounds. Nairimar Vargas-Reyes was the only other Buc to finish in double figures in scoring with 13.
The Bucs move to 2-2 with the split results over the weekend. They return to action on Wednesday when they travel to Daytona to take on Daytona State in a 5 PM tip.