KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Kaley Howard awoke from her brief bus nap to talk basketball. Right away, her slumber turned to speaking about something special. Special that is, as in the Sunshine State Conference Tournament opening-round game.
The eighth-seeded Buccaneers (14-12) meet ninth-seed Florida Southern (10-16) at Silver Spurs Arena 5 p.m. Wednesday to tip off the league postseason tournament. The winner will play top-seeded Nova Southeastern (19-7) in Thursday's 2:30 p.m. quarterfinals.
"There's a lot of excitement, especially coming off that win over Nova Saturday," said Howard, a sophomore forward who is averaging 8.3 points and 5.2 rebounds, while shooting .414 from the field. "I think everybody has the same drive and desire to win right now. We found our chemistry, and we're playing our best basketball right now."
Barry beat co-conference champ Nova by five at home in the final regular season game. It marked the second straight year a Buccaneer team beat the top team in the league at the tail end of the season at Health & Sports Center to set up a tie for the SSC regular season title. Last year, the Bucs shared the league regular season title with Rollins and Florida Southern. This year, the Sharks were co-champs with Lynn.
"We're always seen as the underdog, so it feels good when the underdog can knock off the top seed," Howard said.
Saturday is in the past now, and the focus shifts to Florida Southern -- a team the Buccaneers split with during the regular season, each team winning at home by three points.
"I think we're focusing on the fact that we can play with any team in the conference," sophomore forward Danika Pisconeri said. "We just need to know when we are two or four points down and we come back, we can't stop, we can't settle."
Barry nearly erased a 17-point deficit at Rollins last Wednesday, using a 15-0 run to draw within two late, thanks to some sizzling shooting by junior guard Colette Eule, who buried back-to-back triples and went 4-for-7 from the floor in the second half.
"I think something we're doing better is recognizing the hot player on our team, like when Colette in the Rollins game was hitting those threes," said Pisconeri, who, following an injury, is returning from a four-game layoff to play in the SSC Championships.
"There was no way I was going to miss the tournament. Even if it was painful, there's no way I wouldn't try to contribute in any way possible to this team. I'm fine. I'm ready to play."
That's the mindset this Buccaneers team is taking, knowing internally at least, they've saved their best basketball for last to ensure a winning season.
"At this point in the season, it's all about heart and determination and focus, and I think everybody on the team has that right now," Howard said. "I think we're learning how to finish a game now. When we get down, we fight back."
Pisconeri, a first-year Buccaneer from Waroona, Australia, shares a fettish for Vegemite sandwiches. She also can't get enough Australian chocolate and carmel Tim Tams. Yet the biggest entree on the Bucs' plate now is the Mocs, with the sole objective being season extension.
"I think, in a good way, we're calm about it," said Pisconeri, who earlier this season had seven blocks in a game, which is tied for fourth in school history. "We know what we have to do to win, we know that we can win. I feel like we're just ready to play."
- Last season, the Bucs beat Rollins at home, 71-66, on Feb. 22, 2012, which helped create a tie at the top of the league standings to finish the regular season. Barry shared the regular season league title last year with Rollins and Florida Southern.
- This season, the Buccaneers beat Nova Southeastern, 70-65, on Saturday, also creating a tie at the top of the league standings with NSU and Lynn.
- Barry and Florida Southern’s women will play for the third time this season in the opening-round SSC Tournament game Wednesday, each team winning at home by three points.
- Barry lost to Florida Southern, 47-44, in Lakeland on Jan. 5.
- Barry beat Florida Southern, 64-61, in Miami Shores on Feb. 6.
- Barry has two signature SSC wins this year.
- The Buccaneers beat then No. 25-ranked Tampa, 64-60, in OT in Miami Shores on Jan. 26.
- The Bucs other big league win is Saturday’s 70-65 win over No. 31 Nova Southeastern, the top-ranked team in the South Region.
- Barry has two players from Michigan (Sr. G Dominique Dixon & Jr. G/F Tyler Hardy) and two players from Australia (Sr. F Amanda Frontino & Soph. F/C Danika Pisconeri) on team.
- Buccaneers have a player from Portland, Maine (Fr. G Ella Romanas) and Elkhorn, Wisc. (Fr. C Emily Schahczinski) on roster.
- Tyler Hardy has five double-doubles this season.
- It was Amanda Frontino's birthday on Nov. 11 when she recorded her only career double-double with a career-high 13 rebounds and at the time career-best 12 points. She has since notched a career-high 15 points.
- Stephanie Ball and Frontino share the same Nov. 11 birthday.
- Aussies Amanda Frontino and Danika Pisconeri are frequent Vegemite sandwich eaters before games. Pisconeri is also an avid carmel Tim Tam and Australian chocolate eater.
- Pisconeri's 7 blocks against Florida Memorial (Nov. 28) is tied for fourth in school single-game history.
- Emily Schahczinski can't go a meal without drinking milk. She also is really into crochet. She's made her own purse and cell phone case.
- Asst. coach Emer Foley played two years at Florida Southern, and lived in Lakeland until late October when she took the job at Barry.
- Asst. coach Anisa Secerovic is a former Buccaneer player from Bosnia who believes her blue phone camera can take the best photos.
- Soph. G Jackie Perez keeps her earings in her ears every game until the eight-minute warm-up mark.
- Fr. G Champ Horice hails from Apopka, which is about 15-20 minutes from Kissimmee.
- Jr. F Alesha Jenkins sports a different hair-do for nearly every game.
- Head coach Bill Sullivan has coached six of his seven Barry teams to 14 or more wins. His 2009-10 team went a personal-best 21-10.
2013 SSC Women's Basketball Championship Schedule
Opening Round - Wednesday, March 6
Game 1 - 5:00 p.m. - No. 8 Barry vs. No. 9 Florida Southern
Women's Quarterfinals - Thursday, March 7
Game 3 - 12:00 p.m. - No. 4 Rollins vs. No. 5 Florida Tech
Game 4 - 2:30 p.m. - Opening-Round Winner vs. No. 1 Nova Southeastern
Game 5 - 5:00 p.m. - No. 2 Lynn vs. No. 7 Saint Leo
Game 6 - 7:30 p.m. - No. 3 Eckerd vs. No. 6 Tampa
Women's Semifinals - Saturday, March 9
Game 11 - 12:00 p.m. - Game 3 Winner vs. Game 4 Winner
Game 12 - 2:30 p.m. - Game 5 Winner vs. Game 6 Winner
Women's Final - Sunday, March 10
Women's Championship - 1:00 p.m. - Game 11 Winner vs. Game 12 Winner