SAINT LEO, Fla. – Just three days after the Saint Leo men's basketball team (12-3, 5-1 SSC) suffered a devastating overtime loss to the University of Tampa Spartans, Lions' fans were given something to smile about. In a Saturday afternoon contest that featured excited crowds, buzzer-beating three pointers, and stunning dunks, the Lions found a way to turn an early lead into an overtime win over Florida Tech (7-7, 1-4 SSC), defeating the Panthers 76-67 from inside the Marion Bowman Activities Center.
The first half of the contest began with a 9-0 run by the Lions, and the momentum continued throughout the rest of the half. The first twenty minutes of play featured a game-high lead of 16 points, and the Lions possessed a 13-point lead heading into halftime.
Although the second half began right as Florida Tech stepped back into the gymnasium, the atmosphere in the Bowman Center changed quickly as the Panthers unleashed an attack. On a run that allowed them to score 9 points in just under 3 minutes, the Panthers showed more intensity than they previously had in the first half.
It wasn't until the clock read 5:01 that the Panthers were able to tie the score at 53, but the Loins refused to back down. With the shot clock winding down on the next play, senior Trent Thomas drained a three-point shot just before the buzzer to put the Lions ahead, 56-53. Two minutes later, the Panthers had the score tied for the second time, but another made three-pointer by Trent Thomas put the Lions ahead yet again.
With just one minute left in regulation, the Lions led the game 60-58. However, Florida Tech's Julius Reid tied the game up for the last time with 36 seconds to go and the crowd inside the Bowman Center absolutely exploded. The Lions took their last and final time out with 20.6 seconds on the clock, but neither team was able to capitalize on the remaining time.
The overtime segment began with a mesmerizing dunk by senior Tom Neary as he collected third dunk of the day. Two minutes later, the Lions led 64-60 with 2:32 left on the clock, and after a Florida Tech turnover, the Lions regained possession. Seconds later, junior Jerrel Harris sank a mighty three pointer that brought the crowd to its feet. The next two minutes passed by slowly, marked wutg numerous fouls and free throws, but the Lions were eventually able to let the clock run out with 6 seconds left in overtime and win 76-67.
Highlighted by the offensive performances of Trent Thomas (16 points), Marcus Ruh (15 points), Jerrel Harris (15 points), and Tom Neary (13 points), the Lions totaled 12 assists on the afternoon while shooting 66.7% from the free throw line. On the defensive side of the effort, seniors Marcus Ruh and Shaun Adams led the Lions in rebounds with 12 and 10, respectively.
The Lions look to continue the intensity when they get back in action when they travel to St. Petersburg to take on the Eckerd College Tritons on Wednesday, Jan. 23. Tipoff is slated for 7:30 p.m.