The College of Central Florida’s women’s basketball team took a major step forward on Jan. 25 with a 72-67 victory over conference rival Florida State College at Jacksonville.
The Lady Patriots needed a win on Wednesday on their home floor, and that is precisely what they got. A loss would have weakened CF’s chances at a tournament appearance later in the 2016-17 season.
Freshman Guard Shakarri Mack was fired-up by the win after the Lady Pats secured their second conference win of the season (the first coming against Hillsborough Community College on Jan. 21).
“This win right here gave us the fuel to the fire,” Mack said.
Mack’s double-double (12 points, 11 rebounds) proved to be a major factor in helping her team come out of this huge conference battle on top.
CF’s strategy was simple: get out to an early lead and never look back.
Handling business on the defensive end, the Lady Pats held the Lady Blue Wave to 27 percent shooting from the field, forcing seven first-half turnovers.
By halftime, CF held a seven-point lead—30-23.
Absorbing a strong comeback effort by the Blue Wave in the third quarter (FSCJ cut CF’s lead to four points), the Lady Pats made some quick adjustments and retained their double-digit lead by the quarter’s end. CF recorded a total of 22 second-half assists.
Freshman Center Marcella dos Santos made a solid contribution from off the bench with eight points and eight rebounds in 17 minutes of playing time.
However, the Blue Wave did not go down without a fight.
They outscored the Patriots 25-17 in the fourth quarter, cutting CF’s lead to three points with under twenty seconds left in the game. With time running out, FSCJ was unable to capitalize on a late-game possession, which could have given the Blue Wave a chance at tying the game; instead, CF held on for the five-point win.
Head Coach Tommy Jones felt the pressure of the game when FSCJ made it a nail-biter with 20 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.
“We’ve made this hard,” Jones said. “We have two goals: win the conference and make the playoffs. If you can win the conference, then you can make the playoffs. But you can’t make the playoffs without winning the conference.”
“We’ve been struggling in our conference [this season].” Sophomore Amanda Melosky said. “[So] a win like this [is] good for us.”
The Lady Pats have quite the challenge ahead of them, as leading-scorer Shambria Washington, who averages 15 points-per-game, is still out for the remainder of the season with a broken wrist.
The remaining games of the Patriots’s 2016-17 schedule consist entirely of conference matchups, each game a must win. CF’s next game is on the road against Daytona State College on Jan. 28. After a Jan. 11 drubbing to the Falcons (73-57), the Lady Pats hope to extend their two-game winning streak to three on Saturday in Daytona Beach.
Story by: Darian Williams
Photos by: Delaney VanNest