By Barron Demons
The Pensacola State College (PSC) Pirates defeated the number one ranked Northwest Florida State College (NWFSC) Raiders 87-70, ending the Raiders’ 25-game winning streak.
Hartsell Arena erupted on Feb. 7 when Gerald Williams made a last second, heroic three-pointer to seal the game against conference foe Tallahassee Community College.
Beating the Raiders had a different feeling.
The Pirates were on a 5-game losing streak when going head-to-head against NWFSC.
That changed when the Pirates, led by Daryl Lewis and Willesley Butler who each scored 23 points, outscored NWFSC by 20 points in the second half. “
That game was the same as always. Play every game like it’s your last,” Lewis said. “We’ve played these guys before so what are we scared of?”
The Raiders won the NJCAA National Championship in the 2014-2015 season.
NWFSC has been able to recruit great players such as Derek Funderburk who currently is on the roster and played for Ohio State University before transferring to NWFSC.
“I wasn’t going to let him [Funderburk] punk me,” Butler said.
Both players were chatting on the court throughout the game and even had to be separated by officials during the 3rd quarter.
Butler was able to have the better night, outscoring Funderburk who posted 15.
“At the end of the day, we’re playing basketball. He’s talking smack, I’m talking smack; it’s basketball, that always happens,” Butler said.
The Pirates totaled 59.6 percent from the field, 62.5 percent from the three-point line and 39 rebounds, outperforming the Raiders in almost every statistical category.
However, PSC went into halftime down 39-42.
“Coach just told us that we were almost there and to keep fighting,” Lewis said. “So we came out a little harder and a little more aggressive offensively.”
In the last seven previous matchups against the Raiders, the Pirates were down at halftime and lost the game.
In Saturday night’s game, the Pirates were also losing at halftime but found a way to fight through and pick up a huge win.
“We weren’t worried about us losing at halftime. We just told ourselves we have to keep going and get some stops because we knew the offense would come by itself,” Butler said.
Four of five starters for the Pirates shot 50 percent or better from the field.
“This was a big conference game that we needed to win,” Head Basketball Coach, Coach Pena said.
“I think our kids were very mentally well prepared and at this time of the year, the mental part is probably more important. They were very locked in and this is the third time we had played them, so there are basically no secrets from each other.”
The last time PSC defeated the Raiders was the 2015-2016 season, when the Pirates won 80-77.
“I don’t think we approached the game any differently, other than the fact that it was a game that we needed to win.”
The Raiders being number one in the NJCAA had no effect on how the Pirates played.
“We never talked about it. We talked about that they were on top of our league and they were undefeated. We didn’t get into any of the other stuff. Like I said, the approach wasn’t who they were and what they were, the approach was this was a game that we needed to have to keep going in our conference.”