Walsh for the Winner! Senior Guard Puts FSC Back in First With Late 3-Pointer
LAKELAND – Two early 7-point leads by Florida Southern didn’t matter all that much to Rollins, and a 13-point lead by Rollins a little bit later really didn't matter to Florida Southern either. What did matter in a top-20 battle between the top two teams in the Sunshine State Conference was the shooting of Danielle Walsh. The senior guard scored a game-high 14 points, and hit a tie-breaking 3-pointer with 1:28 remaining to lift the Moccasins to a 59-56 win over the Tars.
The 14 points by Walsh were only two off her career-high, set earlier this year in a 74-59 loss to Rollins, and it allowed her to lead the Mocs in scoring for the first time in her four years at Florida Southern. She was 5-for-8 from the floor on Saturday, including 3-for-4 from 3-point range. All of those 3-pointers came in the final 15 minutes, with the last one giving Florida Southern its first lead since midway through the first half.
Florida Southern (16-3, 7-2) lost that first meeting with Rollins (15-3, 7-2) playing without starting guards Megan Dzikas and Taylor Maldonado, and like Walsh, they both played crucial roles down the stretch in the re-match.
It was a Dzikas rebound that led to a break-away basket by Maldonado that tied the game with 3:33 remaining, a Dzikas assist that gave Michaela Hawley another game-tying basket with 2:13 on the clock, and a steal by Dzikas with 42 seconds to play that denied Rollins a chance to tie after the go-ahead 3-pointer by Walsh.
Meanwhile, Maldonado scored all six of her points in the final six minutes, making all three of her shots during that stretch, with two of them coming on the break. She also assisted the winning bucket by Walsh and grabbed the rebound on the Tars’ next possession to end that threat.
Hawley, the SSC scoring leader, was boxed in for most of the night, and attempted just two shots in the first half and six in the game, but she finished with 13 points, 11 rebounds and four assists. After four blocked shots too, she clearly disturbed the Rollins shooters late in the game when the Moccasins made their run. Tracy Fosterling nearly matched her with 10 points and 11 rebounds.
Florida Southern jumped out to a 7-0 lead two minutes into the game on a layup by Fosterling, a 3-pointer by Dzikas and two free throws by Hawley. The Tars then got two 3-pointers from Ashley Jones to pull within one before the Mocs scored six straight points to go ahead 13-6.
Rollins responded by going on a 16-0 run while Florida Southern missed 10 straight shots and turned the ball over five times. During one stretch, the Tars scored on five straight possessions, with a second-chance basket by Paris Moore giving them their first lead of the game at the 8:32 mark of the first half. Moore would later grab another offensive rebound and make two free throws to score the final points of the run, and put the Tars up by 10.
Jasmine Bradley’s 3-pointer 1:54 before halftime gave Rollins its largest lead of the game (30-17) before a Dzikas 3-pointer and basket by Sofie Lundberg closed the gap to 30-22 at halftime.
The Rollins lead was still eight with less than seven minutes to play, but Florida Southern out-scored the Tars 19-8 the rest of the way while going 8-for-9 from the field. Maldonado made the first two field goals during that run and also tied the game at 50 with 3:33 to play. Fosterling and Hawley would also score game-tying baskets, but the go-ahead shot was left for Walsh, who drained a 3-pointer from the right side of the court with 1:28 on the clock to send the Mocs’ largest home crowd in eight years into a frenzy.
The Tars never had a decent chance to get the lead back. Following a missed shot and a steal by Dzikas, the Mocs added two more to their total with two free throws by Hawley with 28 seconds to play. Moore scored on a layup with 9.7 seconds remaining to get the Tars within 59-56, and got the ball back one last time after Hawley missed the front end of a bonus situation with 8.5 seconds to play. With two fouls to give, the Mocs forced Rollins to run extra time off the clock in the backcourt, forcing Tera McDaniel to try a long 3-pointer at the buzzer. It bounced off the rim as the Mocs celebrated.
While Walsh led Florida Southern with 14 points, Jones and Moore tied for the team scoring lead for Rollins with 13 apiece. They were the only Tars in double figures, as Rollins became the 15th opponent in 19 games to score less than 60 points against the Moccasins.
Saturday night’s result leaves Florida Southern and Rollins now tied for first in the Sunshine State Conference standings, but they have company. Barry defeated Nova Southeastern earlier in the day, giving the Buccaneers a share of first as well.
Florida Southern will play at Florida Tech in its next game on Wednesday night at 5:30.