Fish Close in the End but Fall Just Short at Saint Leo

Written by: Michael Brown, Assistant A.D. for External Operations

Junior Evin Graham (Pictured) Led All Scorers on Saturday with 19 Points Versus Saint Leo University on the Road. Photo Courtesy of: Neil Hayes.Junior Evin Graham (Pictured) Led All Scorers on Saturday with 19 Points Versus Saint Leo University on the Road. Photo Courtesy of: Neil Hayes.

Box Score

SAINT LEO, Fla.- The Sailfish men’s basketball team hit the road on Saturday afternoon to take on one of the top teams in the NCAA South Region in Saint Leo University at the Bowman Center for their only game action of the week. After an exciting first-half left the ‘Fish holding a nine point lead the second-half would see the Lions fight back and then hold on late for a 73-70 win.

Palm Beach Atlantic (6-11) looked to shake off a bit of potential rust after not playing during the midweek and coming off a solid home win a week ago versus Nova Southeastern University. Saint Leo (14-4) on the other hand was looking to rebound quickly after being narrowly defeated on Wednesday by No. 3-ranked Florida Southern College.

In the early stages it appeared it would be the Sailfish who might be looking at a potential upset bid as they broke an early 9-9 tie with a Christian Martinez 3-pointer and held the advantage going into the locker room at halftime.

In fact it was PBA who built up as big as an 11-point lead in the first-half before settling with a 41-32 advantage at the break.

PBA limited SLU to just a 39.4-percent (13-33) shooting effort in the opening half including just 23.1-percent (3-13) from beyond the arc. On the flip side the Sailfish knocked down 6-of-13  three-point attempts and put home a 46.7-percent (14-30) overall mark.

Obviously in need of some halftime adjustments the Lions did just that in the opening minutes of the second-half as PBA managed just two points in the first eight minutes of the period as Saint Leo produced an 11-2 run to start the half. An old fashioned three-point play by Chim Kadima gave the Lions their first lead since the opening minutes as they pushed ahead 45-43 with 12:17 to play in the second-half. 

From there the Sailfish would once again find their touch as they went on a 9-3 run of their own over the next several minutes to regain momentum and the lead as a pair of Mark Djekovic free-throws gave the ‘Fish a 54-48 lead with 7:55 to go in the ballgame.

In a half that was characterized by momentum and offensive spurts by both sides it would be the Lions turn next as they not only retook the lead but pushed their advantage to double-digits as they rattled off a 20-3 run in less than four minutes to move in front 68-57 with 4:04 remaining.

While in a tough environment on the road the Sailfish did not quit and nearly snuck out of the Bowman Center victorious.

Three free-throws from Ronnell Ross with 2:14 to play brought the SLU lead down to just three points at 70-67 with plenty of time left on the clock.

After a few empty possessions and time running low the Sailfish were forced to foul only to see SLU not able to close out the game at the line giving PBA a chance once again.

With 8.3 seconds remaining and the Lions up by just two points the SLU free-throw shooter knocked down only 1-of-2 at the charity stripe giving PBA a shot at a potential game-tying 3-pointer. Unfortunately it would not be meant to be for the ‘Fish on this day as their final attempt was just short and Saint Leo escaped with a three-point victory.

After their solid work shooting in the first-half the Sailfish were slowed by a more concentrated SLU effort in the second-half as they were limited to a 33.3-percent (8-24) shooting while going especially cold from beyond the arc as they were 0-for-11 in the second stanza.

SLU held a 47-29 advantage in rebounding which helped ease the burden of 18 turnovers forced by PBA.

The Sailfish were led on the day by their backcourt of Evin Graham, Clayton Williams and Christian Martinez. Graham led all scorers with 19 points to go along with three steals in 34 minutes. Williams added 12 points, four rebounds and four steals while Martinez knocked down a pair of three-pointers en route to 11 points off the bench.

The Lions were paced by two strong performances from their bench as Ron Foxx and Taylor Bassett each buried 18 points. Bassett was ultimately the difference in the game as his exceptional work from beyond the arc at 5-of-6 shooting in just 13 minutes of court time proved to be critical. Kadima added 15 points from the starting lineup while Spenser Mitchell led all players with 14 rebounds to go with 10 points for a double-double.

The Sailfish will have a quick turnaround as they will step out of the NCAA South Region to host Trinity College of Florida on Monday, Jan. 21st at 4 pm in the Rubin Arena.


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