By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (January 21, 2015) — TaShawn Mabry and Mo Lee combined for 23 points over the final nine minutes to lift No. 15 Tarleton State (15-2, 3-2) to a 76-71 win over West Texas A&M (11-7, 2-3) and into sole possession of fourth in the Lone Star Conference Wednesday night.
Mabry scored with a foul and made it a 3-point play to break a 62-62 tie with 4:35 remaining in front of 2,934 in attendance at Wisdom Gym. Tarleton led the rest of the way in its fourth straight win over the Buffs and its 43rd win in 48 games dating back to the start of last season.
“I just do whatever I can do for my team, and I thrive in situations like that – clutch situations in big-time games with the game on the line,” said Mabry.
Tarleton head coach Lonn Reisman said it was a case of seniors shouldering the load.
“We turned to our two senior scorers and they delivered for us tonight,” said the 27th year Tarleton head coach. “That’s what we expect of them in games like this, and they handled the pressure and played very well for us down the stretch.”
Tarleton trailed 59-53 before Mabry and Lee took over. They were the only Texans to score over the final 13:35, netting the team’s final 25 points. Lee hit two free throws with 11:19 remaining, the only Tarleton points for a stretch of exactly five minutes. That was the time between field goals – a jumper by Hardge to cap a 7-0 run for a 51-44 lead with 13:35 left, and a tip-in by Mabry to pull within 59-55 with 8:35 to go.
The Buffs went on a 15-2 run during Tarleton’s field goal drought, grabbing a 59-53 lead on a 3-pointer by Miles Gatewood with nine minutes left. True freshman David Chavlovich scored seven points and Gatewood five during the run. Chavlovich, the 3-5A MVP at Arlington Bowie High School last year, led all scorers with 26.
Lee and Mabry outscored West Texas A&M 23-12 the rest of the way. Chavlovich was shut out over the final 6:59, finishing 6-14 from the arc and 8-20 from the floor in 39 minutes.
Mabry and Lee were each 6-11 from the floor, and combined for 14-21 from the stripe. Mabry scored 23 and Lee 20, the first time this season two Tarleton players have reached 20 points.
Mabry’s tip-in began the stretch-run domination, then he blocked a shot, collected the rebound and fired ahead to Lee for a fast-break layup to pull the Texans within 59-57.
Chavlovich’s final points came on a 3-pointer to push the Buff lead to five with just under seven minutes to go, but Lee answered with a 3-pointer and a pair of free throws to even it up at 62-62 with 5:18 left.
Mabry posted up WTAMU’s Jeff Bonner on the left block and beat him with a baseline move for a layup and a foul with 4:35 left, and added the ensuing free throw to complete his self-proclaimed biggest play of the night.
“I would say the ‘And 1’ (was my biggest play) because it helped start our rally after we had been struggling for a bit,” said Mabry.
He certainly had plenty of other big plays choose from. The ‘And-1’ play touched off a string of nine straight Tarleton points by Mabry, including a left-corner 3-pointer to open up a 71-64 advantage with 2:24 left.
“I just try to show my versatility, work it inside or shoot it outside,” Mabry said. “I try to do a little bit of everything to help my team win.”
After a Lee free throw and layup, Tarleton led 74-66 with 52 seconds remaining. The tandem each hit 1-2 free throws the rest of the way.
“Mo was huge tonight, but he always is,” Mabry said. “He always brings a lot of energy to the floor, and that’s something the rest of the team can feed off of.”
The Texans led by eight until Antjuan Ball converted an old-fashion 3-point play with less than a second remaining.
The Texans made five of their last six shot attempts, all by Mabry and Lee, while WTAMU missed six of its last eight.
Ball had seven of the Buffs’ final nine points and finished with 17 on 7-10 shooting to go with six rebounds. Michael Hardge scored 14 and dealt six assists for Tarleton.
The Texans shot 53.7 percent and limited WTAMU to 39.3 percent. The Buffs hoisted 28 3-pointers but connected on just seven (25 percent), while Tarleton was a respectable 8-20 (40 percent).
Tarleton edged the Buffs 34-33 on the glass, but allowed 15 offensive rebounds while snagging just six of its own. That led to a 19-9 advantage in second-chance points for WTAMU, but Tarleton made up for it with ball movement, tallying 14 assists on 22 field goals.
The Texans controlled much of the first half after scoring 11 straight points for a 21-12 lead. EJ Reed scored all of his eight points during the run that began with the junior forward scoring seven straight by himself.
A pair of Chavlovich long balls helped the Buffs score seven straight to keep it close, but Tarleton ultimately pushed ahead 37-29 with 2:09 left.
A Chavlovich bomb highlighted a string of five straight points by the Buffs before a pair of free throws by Hardge gave Tarleton a 39-34 edge at intermission.
“It’s a grind in this league because any team can win on any night,” Mabry said. “You never know, even the bottom team can beat the top team, so you always have to be ready and you never know what’s going to happen.”
Noteable: Tarleton evened its all-time series with WTAMU at 23-23…Tarleton senior forward Davene Carter had started 47 straight games dating back to the start of last season before coming off the bench Wednesday. He had three points and three rebounds in 11 minutes…The win was Tarleton’s 573rd under Reisman and came on the three-year anniversary of his 500th win at the school…Impressively enough, 26 points is not a season-high for WTAMU freshman Chavlovich. He scored 33 against Harding (Ark.) on Nov. 28…It wast the final trip to Stephenville for WTAMU standout guard Tez Dumars, who fouled out with just seven points on 2-10 shooting….Tarleton visits Eastern New Mexico at 5 p.m. (CST) Saturday in Portales, NM, following a 3 p.m. women’s contest.