Time was winding down on the shot clock in the University of West Florida’s game against undefeated and nationally ranked Delta State and Alex Coyne needed to make a decision. The daughter of Navarre girls basketball coach Jackie Coyne could have forced up a tough shot but instead she turned and kicked the ball out to Katie Bobos in the corner.
Bobos immediately launched up the 3-pointer and the ball swished through the net as the shot clock expired, giving the Argonauts a 56-48 lead with 1:11 to play inside the UWF Field House Saturday afternoon. The Argos went on to win the Gulf South Conference encounter 57-52 over the No. 22 Lady Statesmen, who came in unbeaten through eight games.
“It was big,” Coyne said. “She was guarding me pretty tight and I knew we had to get a shot up. I saw Katie and she hit a huge shot. It gave us a lot of momentum.”
The Argos (6-4, 4-2 GSC) led 22-10 at one point in the game but had to weather several rally attempts by Delta State (8-1, 5-1). They were up 32-27 at halftime and 45-39 after three quarters. The Lady Statesmen got as close as 51-48 with 2:40 to play.
“I’m so proud of our team for playing tough,” UWF head coach Stephanie Lawrence Yelton said. “Delta State is a storied program and you know they are going to be physical, that they will challenge you and that they are going to stretch you to your limits. We were able to stay with the punches and execute very well. We made big plays and big baskets when we needed to.”
Coyne played a pivotal role in the win, lighting up the scoreboard for 19 points. She also dished out seven assists and tallied four steals. The junior transfer from Southern Mississippi has made a smooth transition to UWF, ranking second on the team in scoring (10.7 points per game) and leading the team in assists (71) and steals (28).
In one stretch in the first quarter, Coyne 12 consecutive points, drilling two 3-pointers along the way, as she helped UWF build a 24-12 advantage.
“This is the perfect program for me,” Coyne said. “I love it. It took some time to get used to but I’m really happy to be here. I get more comfortable every game.”
The win over Delta State was a huge step forward for the Argos, who are looking to contend for a conference championship and play in the NCAA Division II tournament for a third consecutive season.
Bobos scored 18 points and grabbed nine rebounds in the win. The Argos shot 44 percent as a team while holding the Statesmen to 40.4 percent shooting from the field.
“I talked to our team about building the foundation of a championship program,” Yelton said. “We won the conference title two years ago, we’ve played in the NCAA tournament the last two years and now we’re trying to build a powerhouse. The pieces aren’t all together yet but they are coming. We have the building blocks and foundation in place, and today we played at the level we want to be at.”
UWF men lose another close game
Tough losses have been the story of the season for the UWF men’s basketball team. The latest one took place Saturday afternoon as the Argonauts fell 69-64 to Delta State in a GSC showdown at the UWF Field House.
The Argos (2-7, 1-5) have now lost six games by less than 10 points, including four by three or less.
“The positive is that we are competing with good teams. On the other hand, at the end of the day, it still counts as a loss,” first-year head coach Jeff Burkhamer said. “Our guys are working hard and they want to win. We just have to find a way to win some of those games.”
Down 52-41 with 8:38 left, the Argos chipped away at the deficit and closed the gap to 57-55 with 2:36 to go after Rashaan Benson nailed a 3-pointer. But UWF got no closer and Delta State hung on for the road win.
What hurt UWF the most down the stretch was free-throw shooting. The Argos missed eight shots from the line in the final six-plus minutes of action. They were 8-of-19 overall from the line. Delta State was 16-of-19 from the line.
“We played hard in the second half and defended well,” Burkhamer said. “The problem became missed free throws down the stretch. It was tough to overcome. Every game it’s one category where we don’t play well. We have to get to where we are playing a complete game for 40 minutes.”
Five 3-pointers by Delta State (9-3, 4-2) in the first five minutes of the game staked the Statesmen to a 15-8 advantage but the Argos fought back. They tied the game at 15-15 on a 3-pointer by Mario Stramaglia and took the lead at 21-19 on a putback by Austin Somerfield with 8:02 left in the half. Somerfield led the Argos with 20 points.
UWF only scored two more points the rest of the half and trailed 35-26 at halftime.
“Some possessions were missed shots and other possessions were poor where we didn’t execute well,” Burkhamer said. “When you go seven or eight minutes and don’t score and miss free throws in the second half, you struggle to win.”
The Argos are off until January and Burkhamer is hoping to see the team make strides before they start playing again.
“I talked to the guys about everyone getting one percent better. If we do that, we’ll be 13 percent better as a team,” Burkhamer said. “We’re close. We’re right there with the good teams. We just have to find a way to get over the hump.”