KISSIMMEE, Fla. – Barry lived to see another day. The Buccaneers women’s basketball team beat Florida Southern in the opening round of the Sunshine State Conference Championships at Silver Spurs Arena, 50-44, Wednesday.
Eighth-seeded Barry (15-12) will play top-seed Nova Southeastern (19-7) in Thursday’s 2:30 p.m. quarterfinals.
“In our conference, whoever makes the plays at the end usually wins,” Barry seven-year coach Bill Sullivan said. “Fortunately, we made a few plays at the end.”
Leading by three with roughly two minutes left to play, the Bucs turned up their defensive pressure to force a Mocs turnover. Tyler Hardy then scored on an inbounds play under the basket to give Barry a 46-41 lead. Florida Southern responded to trim the gap to 46-44.
Hardy answered on a putback with 28.7 seconds remaining to push the lead back to four, and the Bucs held on to move on.
“That play was huge,” Bucs sophomore guard Jackie Perez said. “She comes up and makes plays when we need them, and that was definitely a moment we needed someone to step up.”
Hardy finished with 14 points, eight rebounds, a block, two assists and a steal. She was six of 10 from the floor, and 2-for-2 at the free throw line.
Florida Southern opened the second half with a 9-2 run after Barry led 27-20 lead at the break, knotting the game at 29-29. The Mocs jumped ahead by four with 10:17 left on the clock, but after grinding through a tough stretch, Hardy tied the game at 37-37 with five minutes remaining when she scored on a dish down low from sophomore forward/center Danika Pisconeri.
“I don’t think we would’ve won the game without Danika Pisconeri,” Sullivan said.
Perez’s three from the top of the key put the Bucs back ahead, 40-39, with 4:27 to play in a game that experienced 10 lead changes and seven ties. Florida Southern’s Mariah Harris sank two free throws 17 seconds later to give the Mocs (10-17) a one-point lead.
That’s where the score remained for the next 1:08 until Hardy was fouled, sandwiched around a timeout.
“Smart three minutes,” rang out from the Bucs bench during a brief pep talk coming out of the timeout.
Hardy sank both free throws, and junior guard Colette Eule hit two more with 2:43 on the clock to give the Buccaneers a three-point lead.
The Bucs were 12 of 14 from the line. Barry outscored FSC, 24-18, in the paint and 13-8 in second chance points. The Buccaneers also owned the edge in points off turnovers, 17-11, and bench points, 7-4. Florida Southern outrebounded Barry, 39-38.
In the end, the only number that mattered was the final score, which in this case allowed the Bucs the opportunity to play another day. That, in itself, had double meaning.
“Domo said, ‘Tomorrow, we get to play in red,’” Perez said of senior Dominique Dixon’s motivational locker room chatter after exiting the floor at Silver Spurs Arena with a victory safely tucked away.
Sullivan told his players before they left Miami Shores if they were to beat Florida Southern – a game the Bucs were forced to wear white as the designated home team – his girls would break out their new red uniforms in Thursday’s quarters. None of the players on this year’s team has ever worn the Barry Red in a game.
“I’m definitely excited,” Eule said.
Brandishing the Barry Red always brings out pride in any Buccaneer. Without question, Pisconeri played inspired basketball Wednesday.
In the first half, the Australian sophomore sank a free throw and then ripped down a big rebound on the defensive end before getting fouled. She sank two free throws to give the Bucs their largest lead, 27-17, inside the final minute of the half. On the previous possession, Pisconeri, who returned from a four-game layoff, sank a free throw to put the Buccaneers ahead eight.
“She brought a lot of energy,” Eule said. “She contributed in a lot of ways. She was playing good defensively.”
Pisconeri finished with nine rebounds, seven points, an assist and a steal. She also altered some shots on the defensive end that didn’t show up in the box score, but it limited Florida Southern additional scoring opportunities.
“I just kind of knew what kind of things I needed to do to help the team out because they have a very dominant post player in (Kirstin) McIntyre,” Pisconeri said. “I just try to transfer that energy from defense to offense. I think of myself as a stronger defensive player than offensive player, so today I was just trying to contribute on both ends of the court. My dad says I look like a different player on each end of the court. It had been so long (since I’ve played), I just wanted to go out there and do whatever I could.
“We didn’t want to leave anything out on the court. People kind of had that mentality to give it everything they had. We got this win for the team. It gives (seniors) Amanda (Frontino) and Dominique another chance to play, and we get to finally wear the red. We’re real excited about that.”
Perez went 3-for-7 from beyond the arc in the first half. She knocked down two straight triples on back-to-back setups from Eule to put Barry ahead, 24-17, with 1:55 left in the opening half. Perez finished with 12 points, two steals, three boards and two assists, hitting four of 10 triples.
“That’s what we’ve been noticing lately, we’ve been finding the person who’s hot,” Perez said, crediting Eule for recognizing she was feeling it at that point in the game. “That’s what it’s going to take for us to seal games, to find the person who’s hot.”
With three players in double figures, the Buccaneers found the balance they needed, each of them picking spots during the game to shine.
“Obviously, we’re more successful when we have more than one person contributing,” said Eule, who had 13 points, seven boards, three assists and two steals. “The fact that we did it at different times is big because it’s a game of runs, so they’re going to score. So we know we’re going to need other people to step up.”
The Bucs shot nine of 27 from the field in the first half. The Mocs were eight of 25. Barry and Florida Southern finished the game with identical 17 of 53 shooting performances for 32.1 percent.
“We know we won by the skin of our teeth,” Perez said. “We know we can play better, and we have to play better tomorrow against Nova.”
The Bucs beat the Sharks by five at home Saturday in the final regular season game.
“We didn’t play as well as we would’ve liked to, but we still won,” Eule said. “Tomorrow we need to come out with our top game. I think everyone realizes that. I think we’re all just thinking it’s another game. We just need to play to our ability.”
Sunshine State Conference Championships
Silver Spurs Arena, Kissimmee, Fla.
BARRY 50, FLA. SOUTHERN 44
FLA. SOUTHERN (10-17)
DUCOTT, Melanie 7-13 2-4 17; McINTYRE, Kirstin 6-16 2-4 15; HARRIS, Mariah
1-3 2-2 4; LINDSEY, Caitlin 1-7 0-0 2; HOCHSTETLER, Alexis 1-5 0-0 2;
LAMBERG, Morgan 1-7 0-0 2; WHEELER, Shelby 0-2 2-2 2; SANDERS, Ali 0-0 0-0
0. Totals 17-53 8-12 44.
HARDY, Tyler 6-10 2-2 14; EULE, Colette 4-11 5-6 13; PEREZ, Jackie 4-12 0-0
12; PISCONERI, Danika 2-4 3-4 7; HOWARD, Kaley 0-4 2-2 2; DIXON, Dominique
1-6 0-0 2; FRONTINO, Amanda 0-6 0-0 0; JENKINS, Alesha 0-0 0-0 0. Totals
17-53 12-14 50.
Fla. Southern................. 20 24 - 44
Barry......................... 27 23 - 50
3-point goals--Fla. Southern 2-13 (DUCOTT, Melanie 1-6; McINTYRE, Kirstin
1-1; LINDSEY, Caitlin 0-4; HOCHSTETLER, Alexis 0-2), Barry 4-17 (PEREZ,
Jackie 4-10; EULE, Colette 0-3; DIXON, Dominique 0-1; FRONTINO, Amanda 0-3).
Fouled out--Fla. Southern-None, Barry-None. Rebounds--Fla. Southern 39
(McINTYRE, Kirstin 14), Barry 38 (PISCONERI, Danika 9). Assists--Fla.
Southern 7 (LINDSEY, Caitlin 3), Barry 10 (EULE, Colette 3). Total
fouls--Fla. Southern 15, Barry 12. Technical fouls--Fla. Southern-None,