It hasn’t been an easy year for the University of West Florida men’s basketball team.
The Argonauts went into Saturday’s game against Union having lost seven games by five points or less three other games in overtime.
But the adversity hasn’t rattled the confidence of the players. The Argos, down 63-52 early in the second half against the Bulldogs, battled hard as they have all season and rallied for an 88-79 Gulf South Conference win at the UWF Fieldhouse.
Deangelo LeGrier’s layup with 52 seconds left in regulation tied the score at 74-74 and back-to-back baskets by Austin Somerfeild and Mario Stramaglia helped the Argos take the lead for good against a Union team that came into the game in third place in the conference.
“It’s a great feeling to win a game like this, especially against a good team,” LeGrier said. “We executed down the stretch and made the plays we didn’t make earlier in the year.”
LeGrier scored 14 points in the win, hitting several key shots in the second half.
Stramaglia nailed seven 3-pointers en route to scoring a career-high 26 points and Somerfield finished with 20 points and nine rebounds.
The Argos won seven games last season and have a 6-16 record this year. They are 5-14 mark in the GSC.
But they have won their last three games and the stretch is a sign of the strides the team has made under first-year head coach Jeff Burkhamer.
“It’s a great win for us,” Burkhamer said. “We’ve struggled in close games, so for us to fight back against a really good team is a credit to our guys. It shows how far we have come.”
LeGrier said Burkhamer has done a great job of preparing he and his teammates for every game. The preparation is finally translating into success.
“I love playing for coach Burk,” LeGrier said. “He always has us well prepared for games and we are seeing that pay off now.”
With the postseason all but out of reach, the Argos, who will return all but one player, are hoping to close this year on a positive note and take aim at a winning campaign next season.
“The guys haven’t quit. They keep working hard in practice and keep playing hard,” Burkhamer said. “We’ve been able to get some things done and are finding a way to win some games. It will go a long way toward our confidence for the rest of this season and for next year.”
UWF women fall in showdown with Bulldogs
It seemed as if the University of West Florida women’s basketball team was on its way to a huge win over No. 11 Union Saturday. The Argos led the Bulldogs 18-11 at the end of the first quarter and were ahead 28-18 mid-way through the second quarter.
But Union eventually heated up offensively and UWF struggled to keep pace in a 70-59 loss. Union stretched its win streak to 12 games. UWF had its three-game win streak come to an end.
“Whenever you step on the court with the No. 11 team in the country, you are in for a battle,” UWF women’s head coach Stephanie Lawrence Yelton said. “They have a great team. We played tough and battled. I’m proud of the fight we put up.”
Aneesa Watson led the Argos with 11 points. Katie Bobos scored 10. Alex Coyne, the daughter of Navarre girls basketball coach Jackie Coyne, finished with seven points and dished out six assists. Coyne leads the conference in assists with 158.
One of the difference makers in the game was the number of free throws both teams shot. Union was 14-of-17 from the line. UWF only attempted four free throws. It made two of them.
“Fourteen of their points came from the line with the clock stopped,” Yelton said. “That was a big disadvantage for us.”
Still, UWF finds itself in a great position heading down the home stretch. The Argos can still finish anywhere from second to fifth in the conference standings. They are 15-8 overall and 13-6 in the GSC. At the moment they are tied for third.
“Although there are only three games left, there is still a lot of basketball left to be played,” Yelton said. “It’s a tight race in the conference. We just have to keep playing hard and be ready to compete every night in a very good league.”