Demons Upset SFA For Tournament Title
March 16, 2013
KATY, Texas - The Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks got 23 points from Desmond Haymon, but the second-seeded Northwestern State Demons did just enough in the second half and squeezed out a 68-66 win over the `Jacks in the championship game of the Southland Conference Tournament on Saturday at the Leonard E. Merrell Center.
The win gives the Demons (23-8) the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, while the top-seeded `Jacks (27-4) will await their fate for the NIT to be announced at 8:00 p.m. on Sunday on ESPNU.
"This loss is disappointing for a lot of reasons, but all three of our games came down to the wire against these guys," head coach Danny Kaspar said. "Our guys have put together a very special season, and we cannot forget that it is not over yet. We came up just short of our ultimate goal of the NCAA Tournament, but these guys still have earned a conference championship ring and have a chance to make some noise in the NIT."
The Lumberjacks held a narrow 35-34 lead at halftime, but were held without a three-point bucket in the second half and hit just 14 of 23 foul shots for the game, while the Demons followed a 19-point effort from tournament MVP Shamir Davis to its first tournament title since 2006.
Haymon, who was named to the all-tournament team, had 14 of his game-high 23 points in the second half and the last six SFA points in the final four minutes to pull the `Jacks to within striking distance. He was joined by Smith in double figures with 16 points and 14 rebounds, and Antonio Bostic who hit three triples and ended with 15 points and a pair of assists.
However, Davis did just enough for the Demons, making his way to the foul line nine times and canning seven of those shots as part of his 19 points. DeQuan Hicks, who missed the team's last meeting with an ankle injury, was the only other Demon in double figures with 13 points; however, his biggest contribution may have been just his second rebound of the game, an offensive board off a Jalan West miss in the final minute that allowed the Demons to run off an extra 35 seconds.
The Demons hit just three of 16 three-point tries, but turned the ball over just six times and pulled in 11 offensive boards while getting outrebounded overall, 34-30.
The `Jacks opened up on fire, racing out to an 11-3 lead on buckets by all five starters before the Demons' second wave entered and went to work on an 11-2 run of their own, keyed by West and Hicks while SFA went more than five minutes without a field goal.
Still, it wasn't until another Demon spurt later in the half that they were able to create any separation, going up by as much as seven after a layup from O.J. Evans with 4:16 left in the period. But the `Jacks put the clamps on defensively for the final four minutes, holding the Demons without a field goal, while going on a 11-3 run that ended with a three-pointer from Bostic from the left corner with 46 seconds left that gave SFA a 35-34 lead at the break.
But Northwestern State came out quickly in the second half, taking the lead for good less than three minutes into the period after 11 lead changes in the first half. The Demons never led by more than five points at any point of the first 10 minutes of the half, but got the lead up to as much as nine at 54-45 after a 7-2 spurt that ended on a transition layup from Brison White.
But the Lumberjacks were not done, trimming the lead to three points with less than five minutes to play after Smith converted on a three-point play. One possession later, Haymon canned a step-back jumper that got it back to 62-61; however, the Demons answer was Davis, who returned fire with a layup in the paint on the next trip down the floor.
Two more buckets from Haymon eventually got the `Jacks to within two points at 68-66 with less than 90 seconds to go; but it was Hicks who tracked down the offensive board off of West's three-point try with 55 seconds to go, giving the Demons the second possession they needed to wind down the clock.
SFA got one more stop, and had a chance to go the length of the floor with less than six seconds to play, but Hicks stole away a pass and tossed the ball to the other end of the floor as time expired.