MELBOURNE, Fla. – Junior Theresa Manigrasso came up clutch down the stretch, draining the game-tying three to send the game into overtime, and making good on a layup with two seconds left in extra time to help the Saint Leo women's basketball team upend to SSC team Florida Tech by a score of 72-70 on Saturday afternoon in the Florida Tech Clemente Center.
The win pushes Saint Leo to a mark of 12-11, and 7-6 in Sunshine State Conference action, marking a new program high for conference wins in a season. The Panthers drop their second-straight SSC contest, and fall to a mark of 16-6, and 8-4 in conference play.
Three Lions scored in double figures, led by Manigrasso with a team high 20 points. Chelsea Williams netted 18 points and pulled in seven boards on the afternoon, while Christina Granville chipped in 10 points of her own. Elise Clyburn and Chelsea Connelly led the team with eight boards apiece.
The Panthers saw double-digit scoring from four players, led by Kayk Wilson with a game high 22 points. Rita Acevedo earned the game's only double-double, notching 10 points and pulling in 10 rebounds.
Saint Leo got off to a slow start, falling behind to as much as 11 points with 10:27 to go before the half. But the Lions whittled away at the deficit as the half inched closer, and found themselves trailing by just five points at the break.
The second half saw the Panthers extend their advantage even further, with the Lions finding themselves in a 12 point hole with 8:32 to go in regulation. But a foul by Florida Tech's Acevedo put Williams at the line where she made good on one shot. Williams' free throw ignited a five-point run by the Lions that cut the lead to six with 4:57 to go.
The ensuing minutes were a back and forth battle that saw the Lions pull to within two four times. With 20 seconds on the clock, Connelly forced a foul on the Panthers, putting FIT's Peggy Smith at the line. Smith missed the first, but made good on the second shot to pull the Panthers ahead by three, 59-56.
With just seconds, to go, and the Lions with the ball, the Lions swung the ball to Manigrasso, who drained a shot from long range to knot the score at 59-59 and send the game into overtime.
The Lions used their momentum to their advantage, and entered into the overtime period opening up their first lead of the game. Saint Leo pulled ahead by as much as three points, but Florida Tech battled back, pulling even with the Lions with 2:44 left and the scored tied at 62-62.
Clyburn pulled Saint Leo out to a two point lead with a layup, but FIT answered back with a shot from beyond the arc to pull into a one-point advantage with 1:52 on the clock. A foul by Florida Tech put Kinnara Lewis at the line, who made both to set the score at 66-65 in favor of the Lions, with 1:32 to go.
The Lions force a foul on FIT's ensuing trip down court, allowing Kayk Wilson to make both free throws to give the Panthers the upper-hand once again. But Manigrasso made good on a layup to give the Lions yet another one-point lead, 68-67, with 1:03 left.
The Panthers' next trip down the court saw Peggy Smith miss a three point shot, and Granville was fouled on the rebound. Converting both of her shots from the line, the Lions found themselves up 70-67 with 30 seconds left, but 10 seconds later Peggy Smith connected on a shot from long range to even the game at 70-70.
The Lions called a timeout with 19 seconds left, and came out of the break with their game faces on. As the seconds ticked down, the ball was swung to the hands of Manigrasso, who fought her way under the basket and rolled the ball in on a layup to give the Lions the hard fought victory.
The Lions broke a five game Panther series win streak, and marked the first time since 2010 that the Lions have defeated Florida Tech. Saint Leo shot 44 percent from the field, and were 50 percent from long range. The Lions shot 67 percent from the free throw line, including a perfect 5-for-5 in the second half.
The Saint Leo women's basketball team returns to action on Wednesday, February 20, when they take on the University of Tampa in their final home game of the regular season. Fans can catch all of the action live on the Saint Leo Sports network at SaintLeoLions.com.