By BRAD KEITH
ALLEN (March 6, 2015) — The path is all laid out for a Tarleton State men’s team seeking its third consecutive title in the Lone Star Conference Basketball Championship.
Top seed Tarleton faces fourth-seeded Texas A&M-Commerce in a semifinal game at 8:30 p.m. Friday. The winner advances to face No 2 seed Angelo State after the Rams dominated the second half of a 76-53 win in an earlier semifinal Friday that was tied 30-30 at intermission.
The championship is at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, meaning Tarleton must defeat the Lions then the Rams over about a 24-hour span to win the title. A win over A&M-Commerce would send the Texans to their sixth straight
No. 7 Tarleton thumped A&M-Commerce 68-48 in Wisdom Gym Sunday, but 27th year Texan head coach Lonn Reisman has plenty of respect for the Lions, who dominated their 79-64 quarterfinal victory over fifth-seeded West Texas A&M Thursday night.
“A&M-Commerce played at a real high level (Thursday), especially early. They were extremely intense,” said Reisman after watching the game from the from the stands at the Allen Event Center. “I think our game will be one where both teams try to impose their will over the other, and the team that does that will probably win the game.”
Tarleton was also dominant in its quarterfinal, destroying eighth-seeded Eastern New Mexico 80-50 in a game that was even that “close.” The Texans certainly imposed their will on A&M-Commerce in last Sunday’s regular-season finale, especially on the defensive end. Tarleton limited A&M-Commerce to 33 points less than its average of 81 entering the game.
A&M-Commerce senior center Darrell Williams, a 6-9 transfer who once averaged 7.3 points and 7.3 rebounds at Oklahoma State, set the LSC Championship record with 21 rebounds Thursday, and also scored 25 points.
“He’s a great player, he’s the player of the year in our league for a reason, and that is a very difficult award to win in our league,” said Reisman, whose Texans surrendered 19 points and 11 boards to Williams Sunday. “You have to make him earn everything and not let him have anything easy. I thought we did that Sunday, even though he finished with good numbers. We have to have the same defensive intensity when we play them (Friday).”
Many familiar with the regional rankings formula are saying Tarleton will lock up the No. 1 seed and get to host nests week’s South Central Regional Saturday, March 14 – Tuesday, March 17. But that won’t be determined until the NCAA Division II Championship Selection Show, which fans are invited to watch live along with both Tarleton teams at Wisdom Gym at 9 p.m. this Sunday.
Tarleton will certainly be one of the top two seeds in the regional, and a win Friday would also land them back in the LSC finals.
“Getting to the final any year is tough. We’ve been fortunate to make it the last five years, but I know it will take a great deal of intensity and a superb effort from everyone on our team to get there again.”