Champions: Northwest Florida Claims FCSAA Tournament Title in Thriller

Champions: Northwest Florida Claims FCSAA Tournament Title in Thriller

NICEVILLE, Fla. – With two seconds remaining in overtime, Northwest Florida's Reneasha Payton made a layup and Gulf Coast's final heave fell short as the Raiders claimed the 2020 FCSAA/Region VIII Women's Tournament title, 57-55, Saturday in Raider Arena.

The tournament title was the first for Northwest Florida since 1996 and snapped a streak of four consecutive championships by Gulf Coast. It is the fourth-ever tournament championship for the Raiders.

"It was a tremendous battle," Northwest Florida head coach Bart Walker said. "I couldn't be prouder of this team and the way they played. I don't know that it was the prettiest game, but it was a hard-fought game. Two tremendous teams went at it tonight."

The Raiders led for the majority of the fourth quarter before Ra'Shara Simmons caught a rebound and made the mid-air put back to tie the game at 48-all with 1.1 seconds remaining in regulation.

Northwest Florida dominated the paint outscoring the Commodores 38-18 from close range. The Raiders shot 36.2 percent (21-58) from the field against a stingy defense and won despite not making a three-point field goal for just the second time this season.

En route to being named tournament MVP, Rayven Peeples scored a game-high 24 points on 9-of-17 shooting to go along with eight rebounds. Payton finished with 10 points and seven boards.

Chanaya Pinto had nine points and 13 rebounds, while Fapou Semebene chipped in with seven points and 10 rebounds.

Panhandle Conference Player of the Year Ahlana Smith led Gulf Coast with 19 points and nine rebounds.

The Raiders will learn their opponent in the NJCAA National Tournament on Monday at 10:30 a.m. on the NJCAA Selection Show set to air on NJCAA Championship TV. The tournament is set for March 17-21 in Rip Griffin Arena in Lubbock, Texas.

For more information on Northwest Florida athletics, visit or follow us on Twitter at @NWF_Raiders.