SAINT LEO, Fla. –The Saint Leo Lions men's basketball team (14-4) defeated the visiting Palm Beach Atlantic Sailfish (1-17) by a score of 68-62, Wednesday evening from the Marion Bowman Activities Center. The win, which guaranteed the first back-to-back winning seasons in 27 years, also served as a break from the Lions' Sunshine State Conference schedule just before heading into eight consecutive SSC contests.
Although the visiting Sailfish claimed the first bucket of the contest, the Lions soon gained control of the game and never lost the lead. After Palm Beach Atlantic claimed a two point lead, the first half of the contest began with a 16-0 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 as the Lions controlled both sides of the court. In addition to an outstanding 56 percent field goal average, the Lions tallied an astonishing first half free-throw percentage of 83.3. In a gymnasium filled with eager Saint Leo fans, the Lions basketball team strolled into halftime with a 13-point lead.
After halftime resumed, the Sailfish unleashed a surge of energy that would eventually cut the Saint Leo lead down to two points. Refusing defeat, the Lions regained their composure and launched a second offensive attack. The combination of tough defense and powerful offense soon became too much for the Sailfish as they struggled to gain an edge over the Lions, although back-and-forth basketball ensued for the remainder of the game.
Senior Marcus Ruh was the first Lion to reach the 10-point club, collecting a total of 24 points throughout the contest, while senior Tom Neary led the defensive assault with 8 rebounds. Junior Jerrel Harris and senior Shaun Adams also scored double-digits in the effort, collecting 11 and ten, points respectively.
From the field, each Lion player contributed as Saint Leo tallied an 80 percent free throw percentage in addition to shooting 53.3 percent from the 3-point arc. On the defensive side, the Lions also collected an astonishing 13 steals.
For the Sailfish, senior Dante Valentine and junior Christian Martinez led the offense, scoring 15 points each. Seniors Alan Hardy and Salim Fauras also collected 13 and 12 points, respectively.