LIONS HOLD OFF RAMS, 83-78, TO CLINCH EIGHT SEED IN LSC TOURNAMENT
A&M-Commerce 83, Angelo State 78
Location: The Field House • Commerce, Texas
Records: A&M-Commerce (10-16, 5-13 LSC); Angelo State (11-17, 4-14 LSC)
Up Next: LSC Championship Quarterfinals vs. Tarleton State • Wednesday, Feb. 29 • 8:30 p.m. • Allen Events Center
COMMERCE, Texas – In a game already buzzing with playoff excitement, A&M-Commerce roared out to a huge lead on Angelo State, then had to fight off a late Ram charge before prevailing 83-78 on Senior Night at the Field House. A&M-Commerce secures the eighth and final seed in the 2012 Lone Star Conference Championship next week at the Allen Events Center with the win.
"I can't say enough about our players and how much they wanted to win this game tonight," said head coach Sam Walker. "The last two weeks have been playoff games for this team, because if we lost, our season was over. They have continued to show their resiliency and determination, and they earned themselves a spot in the tournament. I'm so proud of them and happy they get to continue their season."
Heading into the game tonight, a pair of things needed to happen for the Lions to advance to the LSC tournament. A&M-Commerce needed Tarleton State to defeat Abilene Christian, which the Texans did 74-62 in Stephenville. That essentially made the game between the Lions and Rams a play-in game for the eight-seed, which A&M-Commerce earned with the victory.
It capped what had been an exciting week for A&M-Commerce, who were all but done in the postseason race with a 2-13 conference record a week ago. But a 67-62 overtime victory at Eastern New Mexico, followed by a thrilling 75-72 win at Abilene Christian Tuesday. In a fitting ending to what has been an incredible season, it came down to the final game on the Lone Star Conference schedule to determine the final seeding for Allen.
Devondrick Walker had his best game in a Lion uniform when it mattered most, registering a career-high 24 points with six rebounds and three assists. Desmond King made sure his final game on the court at the Field House was a memorable one, finishing with 22 points, including a lay-up in the final minutes to help the Lions maintain the lead. Preston Whitley recorded 14 points off the bench while Quince Jackson also had a career night, finishing with 12 points, including a pair of huge threes in the second half.
Brad Hambrick only had six points in his final home game, but those six points were critical as he was a perfect 6-of-6 at the free throw line, including hitting four in the final minute to preserve the victory. Esteban Arriola was the only other Lion to score, finishing with five points and a team-best five assists.
With both teams knowing their postseason life was at stake, A&M-Commerce found its groove early in the game, using a 16-3 run early in the opening half to build a comfortable 20-10 advantage with just under 11 minutes to go.
The Lions strung together another extended run a few minutes later, outscoring the Rams 14-3 to take a commanding 20-point lead at 43-23 with 2:13 remaining in the opening half. A&M-Commerce would take a comfortable 49-30 lead into the halftime break, led by Walker's 15 first half points and 12 each from King and Whitley.
As the Tarleton State score started to circulate around the Field House during intermission, the Lions knew they were 20 minutes away from advancing to the postseason. And after Walker missed a three-pointer, grabbed his own rebound and rattled in a dunk to extend the Lion lead to 21 at 51-30, everything appeared to be going in the Lions' favor.
But Angelo State wasn't ready to concede defeat as the Rams continued to slowly chip away at the A&M-Commerce advantage, eventually pulling to within one at 71-70 with 3:31 remaining off a three from LaDonn Huckaby, who finished with an impressive 39 points on the night for the Rams.
The final three minutes proved to be battle between two teams giving everything they had for a chance to play another day. The Lions would go on top by five at 75-70 with 2:15 to play thanks to a jumper and a pair of free throws by King, only to watch Angelo State bury a three 10 seconds later to cut the lead back to two at 75-73.
Leading 77-75, King hit a crucial three foot jumper in traffic with 55 seconds left, putting the Lions on top 79-75, followed by a steal by Hambrick along the Ram baseline. He would hit a pair of free throws, then two more off a steal by King to ice the game for A&M-Commerce and send the Lions to their seventh consecutive Lone Star Conference tournament.
For the game, A&M-Commerce shot 48.9 percent from the floor (23-of-47) and 47.4 percent from three-point range (9-of-19). But where the difference came was at the free throw line where A&M-Commerce hit 28 of its 31 free throw attempts, hitting 90.3 percent.
Huckaby was Angelo State's go-to player all night long, finishing with a career-best 39 points off 12-of-19 shooting. Joey Lenox finished with 12 points and Javae King-Gilchrist added 11 with a team-best eight rebounds and eight assists, but it wasn't enough as the Rams ended the 2011-12 season winless on the road.
So now the attention shifts to the Allen Events Center, the new home for the Lone Star Conference Tournament. The Lions will face top-seeded Midwestern State in the final game of the quarterfinals tipping off at 8:30 p.m. Tickets for the tournament are available online at LoneStarConference.org and will also be available the day of the game. For more information on ticket prices, and any other questions about the 2012 Lone Star Conference Championship, visit the Tournament Central link.
2012 Lone Star Conference Championship Schedule
Quarterfinals • Wednesday, February 29
#3 West Texas A&M vs. #6 Eastern New Mexico • Noon
#2 Tarleton State vs. #7 Texas A&M-Kingsville • 2:30 p.m.
#4 Incarnate Word vs. #5 Cameron • 6 p.m.
#1 Midwestern State vs. #8 A&M-Commerce • 8:30 p.m.
Semifinals • Friday, March 2
Quarterfinal one winner vs. Quarterfinal two winner • 6 p.m.
Quarterfinal three winner vs. Quarterfinal four winner • 8:30 p.m.
Finals • Saturday, March 3
Semifinal winners • 7 p.m.