By SETH STRINGER
NICEVILLE – Andres Feliz held up four fingers as he looked to press row for affirmation.
"Four, right?" he asked NWF State SID Rachel Ryan, who shook her head yes.
Feliz, emerging from the locker room after burying a halftime buzzer-beating 3-pointer, had dished out seven assists to accent 10 points to help lead the Raiders to a 53-38 lead over Tallahassee.
With its fourth straight Panhandle Conference long wrapped up, this game was well in hand for fifth-ranked NWF State. The drama was sapped from The Arena, a packed crowd on hand to celebrate Feliz and his fellow elders on Sophomore Night.
Yet one narrative remained amid a 99-65 win: Get Feliz to 11 assists, which would surpass Robert Hutchinson's school record 336 dimes.
Nine minutes into the second half, Feliz fed Ludgy Debaut over the top for an easy layin.
Welcome to the record books, Andrez. 337 and counting.
"It's something special, being a point guard and all," said Feliz, who had a double-double with 19 points on 8-of-9 shooting. "Being here for two years, it's an honor to break the record. I've worked hard and I'm proud of myself, proud of my family, proud of everything."
Soon after the feed to Debaut, a media timeout was called and the loudspeaker broadcasted the monumental achievement. Feliz was then serenaded with a standing ovation and embraced by the hugs of coaches and teammates.
Feliz should be the shoo-in for Panhandle Conference Player of the Year, the fruits of per-game averages of 20.4 points (60 percent shooting), five rebounds, five assists and more than two steals.
But the 6-foot-2 point guard, despite the earlier check-in with his stats, isn't about the individual acclaim. He has bigger fish to fry as NWF State looks to cement an already iron-clad national tournament résumé, defend its Region 8 crown and make a national title run.
"Last year we came up shot and finished fourth at nationals, so this year we want to win it all," Feliz said. "We've been working hard for that since Day 1."
Wednesday was a much-needed win for the Raiders (27-2, 10-2), who entered the night losers of two of their last three games after opening the season with 25 straight wins and sitting atop the national rankings for eight straight weeks.
A turning point Wednesday night came late in the first half with the Raiders clinging to a 44-36 lead. As Tray Boyd III gathered a pass beyond the arc at the top of the key, DeMeo said from the bench: "That's the one you knock down."
Boyd buried that one and then another on the ensuing possession. Seconds later Feliz let the clock slip down, drew separation from his defender on the right wing and swished a high-arcing 3 at the buzzer to give the Raiders a 53-38 halftime advantage.
Out of the locker room the Raiders scored the first 15 points to put the game well out of reach and lay way for Feliz's record. A feed to DJ Funderburk brought him within one of the record, a pass to Chris Duarte tied the record and then Debaut sealed it at the rim.
Boyd and Duarte each ended with 17 points, Funderburk added 15 points and Karim Ezzeddine chipped in 11 points for the Raiders, who shot a blistering 63 percent from the floor and posted a 60-22 scoring disparity in the post and a 34-15 disparity on the bench.
Unfortunately NWF State won't play at The Arena again this year, the Raiders finishing a perfect 13-0 in Niceville. Up next they'll play an opponent yet to be determined in the Region 8 tournament, which tips off March 7.