FORT MYERS, Fla- Needing one win in their final three Suncoast Conference games to claim their third straight outright conference title, the #14 Florida SouthWestern State Buccaneers Women's Basketball team wasted little time on Saturday, jumping out to a big early lead before coasting to a 92-75 win over visiting St. Petersburg to take their spot on the podium for the third time in three seasons.
The first quarter was action packed on both sides as the Bucs scored 13 points in the first 2:50 of the contest to jump out to an early 13-7 lead. They stretched their lead to eight on a jumper from Simone Lett and then took their first double digit lead of the game with 3:58 to go in the quarter when Sheslanie Laureano scored on a nifty reverse layup to make it 25-15. The scoring for both sides continued to the final horn of the first with FSW holding a 31-28 advantage after one.
The Bucs shot 55% in the quarter, getting six or more points from four of their five starters in the period.
A deep three from Za'Nautica Downs early in the second put the Bucs up 11 and they stretched their lead to 16 with 3:48 to go when Laureano picked up a steal and scored and then Cabria Lewis connected from distance to make it 47-31. They continued to hold a 16 point lead until late in the half when a three from the Titans cut it to a 51-38 contest as the teams went to the locker rooms at half.
Laureano led all scorers with 13 at the break while Nairimar Vargas-Reyes added 11 to go along with a game high 6 rebounds. Downs and Lewis each had 9 in the half for the Bucs who shot 51% from the field in the first 20 minutes of action.
The Bucs really started opening things up as the second half got underway, pushing their lead past the 20 point mark on a jumper from Ta-Shonna Wright-Gaskins and going up 25 on a three from Downs with under a minute to go in the quarter. After four straight from St. Pete, a late drive and score from Geovana Rios gave the Bucs a comfortable 78-55 lead as they headed to the fourth.
St. Petersburg didn't quit though, trimming the Bucs lead to 16 at 82-66 midway through the fourth. The Bucs' bench took it home from there as FSW dribbled out a 92-75 win to secure their third straight conference title.
It was a wildly up and down game for both sides as FSW shot 46% from the field and 39% from three point land on 78 shots, despite turning the ball over a season high 28 times. On the other side, St. Pete shot just 38%, but got up 80 field goal attempts and turned it over 22 times in a contest that featured over 100 possessions from each team.
Laureano led the Bucs with 27 to tie her career high while Downs poured in 24 in the win. Vargas-Reyes notched her second straight, and fourth overall double-double on the season with 13 points and 10 rebounds.
FSW wins their 10th straight game overall to improve to 22-5 on the year while remaining unbeaten in Suncoast Conference play at 7-0 to clinch their third straight Conference Championship. St. Petersburg's frustrations continue as they fall to 17-10 overall and 1-6 in league play.
The Bucs return to action on Wednesday when they travel to Tampa to take on Hillsborough in a 5:30 PM start.