MIDLAND, Texas- The #9 Florida SouthWestern State Buccaneers went toe to toe with the program with more National Championships than any other program in the country, #3 Trinity Valley, Friday afternoon in the semifinals of the WNIT Tournament in Midland, Texas. However, despite leading most of the game and into the closing moments of the contest, the Bucs couldn't hold on, dropping a 66-59 decision to the Cardinals and will are now forced to settle for the tournament's third place game Saturday night against the host #13 Midland Chaparrals.
The Bucs got off to a slow start, falling behind 5-3, but held the Cardinals scoreless over the next 4:06 while going on a 9-0 run to flip the script and take a 12-5 lead late in the first quarter. Then it was Trinity's turn to go on a run as they scored the next 10 to go ahead 15-12 before extending their lead to four at the end of one at 18-14.
Early second quarter buckets from Simone Lett and Sheslanie Laureano tied the score up and a connection from deep from Laureano gave FSW the lead back at 23-20. The Bucs went on to outscore Trinity Valley 22-9 in the second, turning a four point deficit into a nine point lead at the break at 36-27.
The half cooled FSW to a chill as it took them 3:30 to get their first field goal of the half as the Cardinals trimmed the Bucs lead down to four at 38-34. After a layup from Lett broke that drought for the Bucs, they went on another dry spell, failing to put anything on the board for the next 3:57 as Trinity roared back to take the lead at 41-40. After Trinity went up by three with just over a minute left in the third, a driving layup from Cabria Lewis and a jumper in traffic from Za'Nautica Downs gave FSW a 46-45 lead as the teams headed to the fourth and final quarter of play.
The Bucs and Cardinals traded blows early in the fourth as FSW continued to cling to a one point lead at 53-52 four minutes in. It remained a highly contested contest at the four minute mark with the Bucs up 58-57, but it went south from there for the Purple and Aqua. Trinity went on a 6-0 run over the next two minutes to take a 63-58 lead and the Bucs never recovered, failing to connect on a field goal over the final 3:45 of the contest before falling 66-59 for their third loss to a top five ranked team this season.
FSW shot a season low 32% in the loss and were nearly non-existent offensively outside of Laureano who finished the night with 27 points and 5 rebounds. No other Buc reached double figures in scoring in the contest.
FSW falls to 4-3 on the year with the loss while Trinity Valley remains unbeaten at 7-0.
The Bucs will now play in the tournament's third place game on Saturday where they will take on hosts and #13 Midland at 5 PM (EST) before heading back to the Sunshine State.