Mocs Comeback Falls Short in SSC Tournament Against No. 16 Rollins
KISSIMMEE - Florida Southern concluded its 2013-14 season here Thursday afternoon by dropping a hard-fought 69-61 contest to 16th-ranked and No. 2 seeded Rollins in the quarterfinals of the 2014 Sunshine State Conference Tournament at the Silver Spurs Arena.
The Moccasins, who trailed by 23 points with about nine minutes left in Thursday's game, outscored the Tars 21-8 over the final eight-plus minutes of the game to cut Rollins' deficit to eight points at the end of the game, including scoring six points in the final 30 seconds of the contest.
"Our kids never quit today when they could have," Moccasin head coach Holly Borchers said in the postgame press conference. "They just went out, made some changes and got better."
With the setback, the Mocs finished the season with a 7-20 overall record, while Rollins improved to 24-5 and advanced to the semifinals of the SSC Tournament for the third consecutive season.
Rollins, who led 38-27 at the half, opened the second half on 10-1 run to push its lead to 46-28 with 17:15 left in the game. The Mocs would respond with a 6-1 run capped by a bucket from freshman forward Christin Strawbridge (Lakeland, Fla.) to pull within 47-34 at the 15:18 mark.
The Tars, who are the No. 2 ranked team in the latest NCAA Division II South Regional rankings, would use a 10-0 run to push its lead to 57-34. After freshman guard Morgan Siebka (Slippery Rock, Pa.) hit a trey to stop Rollins' run, the Tars would use a 6-3 run to extend its lead back out to 23 points at 63-40 following a lay-up by Jacquar Westbrooks with 8:51 remaining.
FSC, though, would begin it comeback at the free throw line as they hit 8-of-9 free throws over the next three minutes to drop Rollins' lead to 65-48. After Emmalee Schill hit two free throws with 4:41 remaining to push the Tars lead to 67-48, the Mocs would score 13 of the game's final 15 points, including sophomore guard Ali Sanders (Sleepy Hollow, Ill.) scoring eight of her team-high 13 points in the final 2:02 of the game.
For the game, FSC connected on 22 of its 31 free throws (71 percent), including hitting 17-of-22 foul shots in the second half. 17 of FSC's 34 second-half points came at the free throw line. Rollins finished the game shooting 69 percent (11-for-16) at the line.
"Our team fought hard today, like we have all season," said Sanders, who finished with 13 points in the loss. Sanders, who scored 49 points in 24 games as a freshman last season, finished this season as the team's leading scorer with 289 points in 27 games.
In the final 30 seconds of the game, the Mocs scored seven points, including six of them coming from Sanders and the other one coming on a free throw by sophomore guard Syndi Payne (Conyers, Ga.).
Along with Sanders' team-high 14 points, Payne also finished in double figures as she had 11 points for the Mocs, while Siebka scored a career-high nine points in just her third start of the season.
Senior forward Morgan Lamberg (Mukwonago, Wisc.) played her final game as a Moc on Thursday and in her final game, she scored eight points and pulled down three rebounds. She finished her four-year Moccasin career with 650 points and 538 rebounds, which is 20th on the school's all-time rebound chart.
"This game today was a representation of our season. We never stopped fighting and kept playing hard," Lamberg said.
Sarah Taylor led four Tar players in double figures with 14, including scoring 12 of them in the first half. Schill and Sarah Blackburn each had 11 points in the win, while Westbrooks finished with 10 points.
The Mocs scored the first four points of the game, before the Tars answered with an 15-0 run jump started by to back-to-back treys from Taylor and capped by a bucket from Jen Farrell to take an 15-4 lead just a little under six minutes into the game.
FSC, though, would answer the Tars run with a 7-2 scoring spree of its own capped by a 3-pointer from Sanders to pull within 17-11 with 12:25 left in the opening half. After Rollins pushed its lead back out to eight points at 19-11, the Mocs used an 8-5 run keyed by consecutive 3-pointers from junior guard Cashala Thompson (Tucson, Ariz.) and Payne to pull within 24-19 with 7:53 left in the half.
The Tars would respond with a 14-4 run keyed a combined nine points from Taylor Emmalee Schill to push out to a 38-23 lead with 2:21 remaining in the opening half.
FSC would score the final four points of the half thanks to a free throw by Payne and trey from Thompson to go into the half trailing 38-27.
The Mocs finished the game shooting 37 percent from the field and 46 percent (5-for-11) from the 3-point line, while Rollins shot 40 percent from the field and was held to 21 percent (4-for-19) shooting from long distance.
Rollins finished the game with a 44-34 edge on the glass and forced the Mocs into 18 turnovers that led to 18 points. The Tars committed 13 turnovers and outscored the Mocs bench, 28-22.
Sophomore forward Mariah Harris (Gainesville, Fla.) led the way for the Mocs on the glass as she collected eight boards, while Payne and Strawbridge each had six in the game.