FRISCO — The most unpredictable Lone Star Conference men’s basketball tournament in recent memory moved inside the Comerica Center for the final three rounds of action, beginning with the quarterfinals.
The tournament began on Tuesday, with two of the four games ending in an upset. That trend continued Thursday, with the top seed surviving on a buzzer-beater while two other top seeds lost.
Lubbock Christian 58, St. Edward’s 56
Top-seeded Lubbock Christian found themselves in a tie game against No. 9 seed St. Edward’s with 1.1 seconds left on the clock in regulation. Everyone in the Comerica Center knew the Chaps would try and get the ball to the Lone Star Conference Player of the Year, Parker Hicks.
However, just because you know what’s coming doesn’t mean you can stop it. Rowan Mackenzie found Hicks open off a re-screen right at the basket, and Hicks put the ball in the hoop to send LCU to a 58-56 win over the Hilltoppers.
"We assumed they'd be playing aggressively because we didn't have much time," Hicks said. "It was a re-screen, and I went to Rowan after the shot because it was a hard pass to make because they had someone smothering the ball. The way he faked the pass and got the defender off his feet was great execution."
"It was great execution at the end," LCU coach Todd Duncan said. "We have three or four guys capable of making the play, so we tried to run a play with some options. The first look we wanted was near the basket, and we got it tonight."
For St. Edward’s, the final play was excellent execution that ended in heartbreak for the Hilltoppers.
"We wanted to get some pressure on the ball to keep them from getting a clean look, and we wanted to keep everyone in front of us," St. Edward's coach Andre Cook said. "They re-screened, we didn't switch, and they got it to Parker for the basket."
LCU advances to play Texas A&M-Kingsville at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday.
Hicks led all scorers with 21 points while Lloyd Daniels added 15 points, and Aamer Muhammad chipped in 10 points for the Chaps.
Uche Dibiamaka led SEU with 19 points, with Daniel Venzant adding 15 points and Jake Krafka contributing 12 points.
The Hilltoppers were eighth in the final regional rankings released this week, and Cook believes his team has earned another game in next week’s NCAA tournament.
"This team - the way they have fought has been unbelievable," Cook said. "When it looks bleak, you still have to fight, and these guys deserve to put these uniforms on again. We were ready to play all 16 league games. We played every one of them, and we didn't manipulate the schedule."
Midwestern State 82, Dallas Baptist 66
MSU overcame a Dallas Baptist run to open the second half and responded with a spurt of its own to earn an 82-66 victory. The Mustangs advance to the quarterfinals to meet West Texas A&M at noon on Saturday inside the Comerica Center.
"It was definitely a game of runs," MSU coach Justin Leslie said. "It was what we expected. DBU is a great team, and they put us in a lot of situations where we had to make reads, and we finally got a good read on what they were doing as the game wore on."
"It was a game of runs, and I loved how we responded coming out of halftime," DBU coach Blake Flickner said. "I'm proud of our guys for the fight they had. A lot of credit has to go to MSU, who has been one of the best defensive teams during conference play."
Jermane Carter hit 10-of-13 shots from the field to lead MSU with 24 and eight rebounds. Terrell Wilson added 16 points, and Pierre Sanders scored 15 for the Mustangs.
"I felt in rhythm today," Carter said. "I let the game come to me, and it felt a lot easier after I was able to see what they were doing defensively."
Ricky Lujan led the Patriots with 21 points and seven assists, while senior Julian Miranda added 14 points on 4-of-7 shots from 3-point range.
DBU was fourth in the final South Central Regional rankings this week, and Flickner expects his team to play in next weekend’s regional tournament.
"We don't think this is the end of our season," Flickner said. "We think that our body of work throughout the season is right up there with some of the best teams in the region and in the country."
West Texas A&M 83, Angelo State 73
West Texas A&M entered the quarterfinals of the LSC tournament in revenge mode after an unusual five losses during conference play. On Thursday, the Buffs avenged an earlier home loss to Angelo State with an 83-73 victory over the Rams.
WT will continue its revenge tour in the semifinals of the LSC tournament when they meet Midwestern State at noon on Saturday. The Mustangs defeated the Buffs in overtime earlier this season.
The key to avenging the loss to the Rams was on the offensive boards, where 17 offensive rebounds led to 16-second chance points for the Buffs.
"They beat us at our place, so it was a game where we wanted to redeem ourselves a little bit," West Texas A&M coach Tom Brown said. "We go after the offensive rebounds. When you're playing an older team, it becomes a learning experience for some of our young guys."
"Rebounding was something they got us with at their place, and they got us again today," Angelo State coach Cinco Boone said. "When they get that many more possessions and outrebound you by 15, it makes the difference."
Julius Brown scored a career-high 34 points to lead the Buffs. The junior transfer from Lincoln Memorial hit 12-of-19 shots from the floor and 4-of-5 shots from 3-point range.
"My teammates played a big part in my game tonight," Julius Brown said. "They kept encouraging me to keep shooting and keep playing my game, and that helps me believe in myself."
ASU was led by Tyrell Carroll with 22 points, while Lathaniel Bastian recorded a double-double with 11 points and 16 rebounds.
The Rams await the NCAA tournament selection show on Sunday night after finishing fifth in the final regular season regional rankings. ASU knows they will see many of the same teams from the LSC if they advance to the regional tournament.
"We just gave the message in the locker room that we'll probably see a lot of Lone Star Conference teams next week," Boone said. "The parody in our league is as good as I've ever seen, and to have 17 good teams has led to a lot of sleepless nights. But hopefully, our conference has sharpened us to go to the regional next week and perform well."
Texas A&M-Kingsville 70, St. Mary’s 64
Tre Flowers earned a clutch four-point play with 1:30 left in regulation to lead Texas A&M-Kingsville to a 70-64 win over St. Mary’s.
The No. 12 seeded Javelinas advance to play the top seed, Lubbock Christian, at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday.
Texas A&M-Kingsville held a 29-13 lead over the Rattlers with 7:13 to play in the first half when St. Mary’s began using a 3-2 zone defense following the media timeout.
"The zone had us turn into a jump-shooting team," Texas A&M-Kingsville coach Johnny Estelle said. "The zone did a good job of slowing us down and switching to a zone was a great move on their part, but we started moving more and getting in the seams of the zone."
"We got off to a miserable start offensively," St. Mary's coach Jim Zeleznak said. "We felt like we needed a change because we weren't defending well. We talked about playing zone tonight but wanted to play it more intermittently than we did. It served its purpose because it slowed Kingsville down and allowed us to get back in the game."
Flowers' crucial play came after St. Mary’s had clawed its way back from a 16-point first half deficit to take the lead late in the second half. The senior guard seemed to possibly assist the contact on the foul using his legs.
"It was a foul man - you gotta protect the shooter," Estelle said jokingly. "I didn't see the play, but I saw the ball go in, and I knew if we could find him that he would make the shot."
"I was in the corner, and I saw us setting a screen for Creighton (Avery), and I knew he would find me because he's one of the most unselfish players in the league," Flowers said. "He found me, and their player was closing on me a little too fast. I had enough time to get it off, and he was going too fast and ran into me."
The loss brings a tough season to a close for St. Mary’s, who battled multiple COWTVID shutdowns during the season.
"These guys have fought all year," Zeleznak said. "We had a couple of injuries that set us back to start the year, and then we had three CoVID shutdowns at the beginning of conference play. So, for us to win enough games to get a bye in this tournament was incredible, and I'm super proud of this team."