FSW Erases Big Second Half Deficit For Conference Road Win

Shekinah Guthrie (Photo by Linwood Ferguson)
Shekinah Guthrie (Photo by Linwood Ferguson)
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.- The #14 Florida SouthWestern State Buccaneers looked like they were in big trouble Wednesday night on the road at St. Petersburg as they faced their largest deficit of the 2019-2020 season, trailing the Titans by 17 with just over 16 minutes left in the game.  But the Bucs didn't quit on this night, outscoring St. Pete 17-2 to close the third quarter before forcing overtime and coming out on top of an 88-86 nailbiter in the extra period for their sixth straight victory.  
It was a first quarter to forget for the Bucs, who fell behind 20-11 after shooting just 30% from the field.  
The Bucs deficit grew to 13 early in the second quarter before a 6-0 run highlighted by a circus three pointer from Za'Nautica Downs got them back to within seven at 28-21. They couldn't get it any closer than that though in the first half and the Titans stretched their lead back to double digits at the break, taking a 45-35 lead into the locker rooms at half.  
It remained a 10 point game early in the third when St. Petersburg went on a 7-0 burst to take their largest lead of the game and force the Bucs into their largest deficit in a game this season at 17 with just over six minutes remaining in the quarter.  A big three from Cabria Lewis got the Bucs on track after a timeout and their defense dug their heels in and didn't allow St. Pete anything over the next three minutes, trimming the Titans lead back to single digits with three minutes to go in the period.  After a pair of Titan free throws pushed the lead back to 10, Sheslanie Laureano worked her way free for a reverse layup and FSW would go on to score the final eight points of the quarter to cut the St. Pete lead all the way down to just two at 58-56 after three quarters.  
A fast break bucket from Nairimar Vargas-Reyes early in the fourth drew FSW even at 58 and they took their first lead of the game with 6:27 to go on a jumper from Simone Lett that made it 65-64.  Another bucket from Lett moments later made it a four point game in favor of the Bucs, but they couldn't hold the lead as the Titans tied the game back up with just under a minute to go and then took a two point lead after an FSW turnover led to an easy bucket for the home team with just 43 seconds to go. Lett made another clutch shot to tie the game up with 29 seconds left on the clock and neither team scored in their final chances of regulation as the game went to overtime knotted at 73. 
The teams traded baskets early in the extra period as the game remained tied midway through the five minute frame.  Lett found the bottom of the net on another mid range jumper to put the Bucs in front by two, but again St. Pete answered, tying the game back up at 84 with 1:38 left on the clock.  A big defensive rebound by Shekinah Guthrie and push up the floor by Laureano netted Lewis an easy two in transition to give the Bucs an 86-84 lead, but again the Titans wouldn't go away, getting the equalizer to send the first overtime period to its final minute tied at 86.  Vargas-Reyes was fouled and hit a free throw to put the Bucs up one and FSW forced a turnover to give them the ball, leading by one with 40 seconds to go. A crucial turnover on the Bucs gave St. Pete the ball back, but their shot attempt with four seconds left on the clock was off the mark and Vargas-Reyes cleared the boards.  Guthrie was fouled on the inbounds and hit one of two from the stripe and a desperation three by the Titans was well off the mark as the buzzer sounded as the Bucs held on to win 88-86. 
The final numbers were nearly identical for the two teams with FSW shooting 44% from the field and St. Pete 43% while the Bucs grabbed 50 rebounds, 25 on offense and 25 on defense while the Titans had 25 on the offensive glass and 26 on the defensive end for 51 on the night.  Laureano filled up the stat sheet, scoring a game high 27 while pulling down 9 rebounds, dishing out 7 assists, and picking off 5 steals on the night.  Downs scored 17 before fouling out while Vargas-Reyes and Guthrie combined for 22 big rebounds for the Bucs in the win.  
FSW improves to 18-5 on the year with their sixth straight victory and now sits at 4-0 on top of the Suncoast Conference standings.  St. Petersburg just misses the upset bid, falling to 16-8 overall while remaining winless in conference play at 0-4.  
The Bucs are back in action at home on Saturday when they host Hillsborough at noon in Suncoast Credit Union Arena.