Lone Star Conference Recap: Semifinals

FRISCO – The Lone Star Conference men’s and women’s semifinals took place inside the Comerica Center on Saturday. The championship games will begin at 1 p.m. Sunday with the men’s game followed by the women’s game at 3:30 p.m.

Men's Semifinals

West Texas A&M 87, Midwestern State 55

The West Texas A&M LSC tournament revenge tour rolled past another victim in the semifinals. The Buffs' hot shooting led to an 87-55 win over Midwestern State.

“The first four minutes were a struggle,” WT coach Tom Brown said. “It was a great team effort, and they missed a lot of free throws that hurt them. (There) is a little revenge factor after they beat us at their place last time we played. This shows we’re coming together as a team.”

“We constantly address staying in character with our team and having our fundamentals to count on when we face adversity,” MSU coach Justin Leslie said. “When they made their run, we missed a couple of shots and made a couple of mistakes, and we started pressing and making uncharacteristic decisions.”

The Buffs have won 14 consecutive conference tournament games and will try and earn their fifth straight LSC title against Texas A&M-Kingsville at 1 p.m. Sunday. However, WT will need a new motto after defeating the Javelinas in their only meeting earlier this year.

“We constantly address staying in character with our team and having our fundamentals to count on when we face adversity,” MSU coach Justin Leslie said. “When they made their run, we missed a couple of shots and made a couple of mistakes, and we started pressing and making uncharacteristic decisions.”

Julius Brown led WT with 22 points, Jesse Iweze added 12 points, and Larry Wise and Hayden Blankley scored 10 points.

“You gotta have that inside presence, and Jesse is very good when he catches the ball,” Brown said. “He can go by your or around you - he’s not going to just back you down. But he still needs to be more physical, and he was today.”

Pierre Sanders led MSU with 13 points for a team that took another step forward in the rebuilding process this season.

“Getting to Frisco, winning a game, and being a part of the process is so important for the young men in this program that are coming back because they need to see what this looks like and let this fuel their hunger in the offseason,” Leslie said.

Texas A&M-Kingsville 72, Lubbock Christian 69

It’s not unusual for a No. 12 seed to play the No. 1 seed in a conference tournament. However, it is uncommon for that game to be played in the semifinals and even more unusual to have the lower seed earn the upset.

That is unless that team is Texas A&M-Kingsville. The No. 12 Javelinas saw a 17-point lead evaporate before Jake Majors hit a 3-pointer with six seconds left and followed with a steal on defense to seal the 72-69 upset over No. 1 seed, Lubbock Christian.

The Javelinas advance to the LSC tournament title game, where they will play West Texas A&M at 1 p.m. Sunday.

“The heart and fight in these young men that they exhibit every day was seen on the big stage today,” Javelinas coach Johnny Estelle said. “I couldn’t be more proud of these guys. We haven’t played (LCU) in three years, and (assistant coach) Omar Gonzalez stayed up all night to prepare our team. Javelinas travel in packs, and you don’t want to mess with the pack.”

“We couldn’t dig ourselves out of the hole they put us in,” LCU coach Todd Duncan said. “They made shots and had us on our heels. We let them get too comfortable, which fed their energy and confidence. They’re a good team, and they hit a great shot at the end.”

Jordan Wilson scored 19 points to lead four Javelinas in double figures. Wilson was joined by Derek Luna (16), Dayante McClellan (11), and Avery Creighton (10). But it was the nine points from Jake Majors that everyone will remember after the sophomore hit two crucial 3-pointers late in the game.

“Jake Majors is a unique story,” Estelle said. “He redshirted his first year, and he’s been with us for three years. I’ve never had a kid work harder to be a player and get to this point. I trust all my players, and he delivered.”

Lloyd Daniels scored 19 points to lead an LCU team still likely to receive the top seed in the NCAA South Central Regional Sunday night.

“Anytime you lose, there’s an opportunity to learn. Even though we won Thursday, there were opportunities we let go, and we have to be better,” Duncan said. “We’ll watch the tape and turn it into something good. Just because we’re at the end of the year doesn’t mean we can’t keep getting better.”

 

Women’s Semifinals

West Texas A&M 63, Lubbock Christian 58

Zamorye Roberts had two huge 3-pointers, and Lauren Taylor dominated the inside to lead West Texas A&M to a 63-58 victory over Lubbock Christian.

The Lady Buffs advance to the LSC tournament championship game for the 23rd time in program history and play Texas A&M-Commerce at 3:30 p.m. Sunday.

The WT win also guaranteed a new conference tournament champion while ending the Lady Chaps 13-game conference tournament winning streak dating back to the Heartland Conference.

“Our girls were ready tonight, and they understand the Lady Buff tradition. We had a few Lady Buff alumni in the stands tonight, and that means a lot to us because we know the tradition that’s been established here at WT,” WT coach Josh Prock said. “It is an expectation to be in the championship game, and these girls met it. So, give them all the credit.”

“This time of year, every game is an adventure where you have to be sharp all the way,” LCU coach Steve Gomez said. “That was a game that if we had more points in the paint that we’d be in good shape, but they shot well from 3-point range. Timely shooting this time of year can be the difference in games.”

Roberts and Taylor tied for the leading scorer of the contest with 18 points, while Jayla Burgess added 10 points for WT.

“I just wanted to relax because everyone was tense being a big rival game against LCU,” Taylor said. “I couldn’t make it a mental game where I thought I had to make shots. I had to relax and play basketball, and that’s all I tried to do.”

Allie Schulte led LCU with 15 points, with Channing Cunyus joining her teammate in double figures with 14 points.

The two-time reigning national champion, LCU, will have an opportunity to defend its title next week in the NCAA South Central Regional. However, the Lady Chaps may have to win on the road to make it back to the Elite Eight.

“Once you get to the postseason, you want it to last as long as possible. We thought if we could win the tournament that we might host the regional again, but we get to play again,” Gomez said. “We’ll have an opportunity to get our feet under us in a different environment. This will be a new experience, and we look forward to the challenge.”

Texas A&M-Commerce 58, UT Tyler 52

Texas A&M-Commerce coach Jason Burton emerged from the team huddle following the end of the third quarter with his suit coat off and his team feeling a renewed sense of vigor.

The Lions responded to Burton’s words with a dominant fourth quarter to earn a 58-52 win over UT Tyler. As a result, TAMUC advances to the LSC title game for the third straight season and will meet West Texas A&M at 3:30 p.m. Sunday.

What was Burton’s message to the team to ignite a fourth quarter that saw the Lions outscore the Patriots 20-12?

“The message was to get stops right now and continue to believe in our ability to win this game,” Burton said. “I didn’t think offensively we followed the game plan for the majority of the game. We shot way more 3-pointers than we normally do, and they weren’t falling. But we followed the game plan in the fourth quarter.”

“It gets us more pumped to see that coach is about to get pumped,” senior Chania Wright added.

“I thought we had some open looks in the fourth quarter, but we were a little bit out of rhythm,” UT Tyler coach Rebecca Alvidrez said. “We had our opportunities to win - it just didn’t fall for us tonight.”

LSC Player of the Year Dyani Robinson led the Lions with 21 points, Asiyha Smith added 14 points, and Chania Wright chipped in 10 points.

“Watching film from playing them earlier this year, we recognized the gaps that were open,” Robinson said. “My team found me and set screens to get me open, and I had good shots.”

Liah Davis led the Patriots with 15 points and eight rebounds, Destini Whitehead added 13 points and six rebounds, and Tina Machalova scored 11 points.

Alvidrez’s first season at the helm of the Patriots has been remarkable. UT Tyler finished with a 19-9 record after finishing the previous two seasons with a combined 3-37 record.

“I’m not happy to just be here, but this is a foundation for our program,” Alvidrez said. “We’re going to continue to grow this, and we’re going to be better next year. Everything has worked out for us this year, and I’m proud of them.”

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