MIDLAND, Texas- The #9 Florida SouthWestern State Buccaneers were the new kids on the block Thursday at the 2019 Women's National Invitational Tournament in Midland, Texas as they took on the 7-0 Hill Rebels. The Bucs, in just their fourth year of existence, were participating in the 10th annual tournament for the first time with the likes of perennial national powers Trinity Valley, Seward County, Salt Lake, and Midland. It didn't take long for FSW to let the rest of the field know they belonged though as the Bucs raced out to a 24-7 lead after one quarter and never looked back, handing the Rebels their first loss of the season with a 75-54 blowout to advance to the tournament semifinals on Friday.
The Puerto Rican connection of Sheslanie Laureano and Nairimar Vargas-Reyes teamed up for a bucket on the Bucs first possession of the contest and it was a sign of things to come for the rest of the afternoon. FSW quickly pushed their lead to 8-0 before a three from Vargas-Reyes put them in front 11-3 midway through the first quarter of action. The Bucs continued to control the pace, upping their lead to 21-5 on another Laureano bucket with 2:03 remaining in the quarter. At the end of one, it was all Purple and Aqua as FSW led it 24-7.
Hill scored the first three of the second to get it back to a 14 point game, but FSW answered right back, jumping on the back of sophomore Za'Nautica Downs who cushioned the lead back to 17 with a bucket in the paint with 3:37 remaining in the half. A late offensive rebound and putback by Ta'Shonna Wright-Gaskins and a charity from Downs to close the half gave FSW a 41-23 advantage into the locker rooms at the break.
After six early points in the third, the Bucs went cold, going over three minutes without a basket as Hill gave their best effort to try to get back into the game. A late tip in gave the Rebels five of the final seven points of the period to trim two off the Bucs lead in the quarter, making it a 56-42 game in favor of FSW after three.
A quick steal and score by Downs to start the fourth got the ball rolling for the Bucs and another layup by Vargas-Reyes put the game out of reach for the Rebels with FSW in front 60-42 with 9:31 remaining. The Bucs continued to pour it on, taking their largest lead of the game at 71-44 on another Laureano jumper before the FSW bench finished the Rebels off 75-54 to send the Purple and Aqua to the tournament semifinals.
Vargas-Reyes let three Bucs in double figures with a season high 20 while Laureano had 19 points and 9 rebounds and Downs added 18. FSW shot 45% from the field as a team while holding Hill to just 28% shooting from the floor and forcing 23 Rebel turnovers.
FSW improves to 4-2 with the victory while Hill drops their first of the season to fall to 7-1.
The Bucs advance to the semifinal round of the tournament on Friday at 6 PM (EST) where they will take on the winner of Thursday night's Odessa/Trinity Valley matchup. Odessa heads into the tournament ranked #23 in the country while Trinity Valley checks in at #3.