MIDLAND, Texas- For the fifth time in eight early season games the #9 Florida SouthWestern State Buccaneers opposed a top 25 foe Saturday in the 3rd place game at the WNIT in Midland, Texas as they battled the 13th ranked hosts, the Midland Lady Chaparrals. The Bucs led most of the first half and had a 13 point advantage in the second half, but again couldn't hold on late, falling 81-77 to settle for a 4th place finish at the showcase event.
With the game tied at 7 early on, FSW's Nairimar Vargas-Reyes went on a 6-0 run of her own, pushing the Bucs in front 13-7 midway through the first quarter. The Bucs went scoreless over the next three minutes though as Midland erased the FSW lead and took a one point lead of their own at 14-13. The Bucs got back on track with a pair of buckets from Ta'Shonna Wright-Gaskins to retake the lead and they held that through the end of the quarter with a 23-18 advantage after one.
An early three from Za'Nautica Downs pushed the Bucs lead to eight and another triple from the sophomore made it an 11 point game at 33-22 with 5:34 left in the half. Neither team scored over the next 2:23 until Midland started a 12-0 run in just 1:34 to turn an 11 point FSW lead into a one point lead for the Lady Chaps with 1:37 left in the half. The Bucs knocked down four free throws in the final minute of the half and held Midland without a point, taking a 37-34 lead into the locker rooms at half.
The Bucs came out of the break ready to go as Sheslanie Laureano drilled a three and Vargas-Reyes connected on a pair of shots to stretch the FSW lead to seven. Shekinah Guthrie scored to continue the FSW push and Wright-Gaskins cashed in on an old fashioned three point play to give the Bucs their largest lead of the game at 52-39. The Bucs continued to lead by 13 with 5:42 left in the quarter when things went south. FSW made just one of their next 10 shots as their lead was trimmed from 13 down to just one before a Wright-Gaskins bucket late in the quarter gave FSW a 58-55 lead after three.
The teams went back and forth early in the fourth with FSW holding onto their three point lead with 6:02 to go. The Bucs had a chance to take a six point lead with a three point attempt, but couldn't find the mark and the Chaps made them pay, knocking down a three of their own on the other side of the floor to knot the game at 66 with just over five minutes remaining in regulation. Wright-Gaskins continued her big night with a jumper to put FSW back in front, but Midland answered with another three to retake a one point lead. Like a heavyweight fight, the blows continued to fly in from both sides. Laureano was fouled and calmly nailed a pair of free throws to tie the game back up and a layup from the FSW guard put the Buc in front 77-75 with 2:07 to go. The next 40 seconds decided the game as FSW left Kayla Anderson uncovered and she made them pay with a three to take the lead and on the ensuing FSW possession, a long rebound off of a miss led to a runout layup for the Chaps to give them an 80-77 lead. FSW never recovered, missing a pair of threes and turning it over twice in their final four possessions as Midland held on for the comeback win 81-77.
There was quite a bit of discrepancy on the final stat sheet as FSW shot just 40% from the field, but also turned it over just 14 times while Midland shot 53%, but coughed it up 22 times on the night. Downs scored a game high 27, but shot just 10 for 31 from the field and 5 for 16 from three in the loss. Vargas-Reyes finished with 15 for the Bucs while Wright-Gaskins scored a career high 13 after having just 14 points total in the Bucs first seven games.
FSW falls to 4-4 on the season with all four losses coming to teams ranked inside the NJCAA's top 15 while Midland improves to 8-2 on the year.
The Bucs will return home to the Sunshine State Sunday before hitting the road to Miami on Tuesday where they will take on ASA Miami in a rare weekday matinee affair at 2:00.