By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (March 14, 2015) — For most players, being named to the South Central All-Region team would be the highlight of their week.
Mo Lee isn’t most players. He’s a senior leader on a team hosting a regional championship. Needless to say, there isn’t much time yet for reflecting on individual accolades.
Also a first-team All-Lone Star Conference selection after leading No. 7 Tarleton State to the outright LSC regular-season championship, Lee and the Texans welcome seven Division II powers from across Texas and Colorado to Wisdom Gym this weekend for the South Central Region Championship as part of the NCAA Division II playoffs.
Tarleton opens regional play against St. Mary’s, from San Antonio, at 6 p.m. Saturday at Wisdom Gym. Earlier games include Texas A&M-Commerce against Angelo State at noon and Midwestern State challenging Metropolitan State College-Denver at 2:30 p.m. The night will conclude with Colorado-Colorado Springs facing Colorado School of Mines at 8:30 p.m.
The semifinals are at 5 and 7:30 p.m. Sunday, with the championship tipping off at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
“It’s a dream come true really, to finish your college career by hosting the regional at your school,” said Lee, a native of The Bronx, New York, who has played his last two seasons at Tarleton. “As a senior, I don’t know what more I could ask for.”
Lee was named second-team all-region by Daktronics Friday, after averaging 14.9 points, 4.9 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.1 steals while shooting 81 percent from the foul stripe and reaching 20 points seven times in final 14 games.
But make no mistake, his focus is on the regional.
“All we are thinking about right now is St. Mary’s, because if we don’t win that game none of the other teams matter,” said Lee, who helped Tarleton defeat St. Mary’s 75-64 early in the season, also at Wisdom Gym. “We know they have a great team, and they have to win to keep their season going, too, so it’s going to be a tough game.”
Tarleton is 11-4 all-time against St. Mary’s, including 2-0 in the NCAA Division II Championship tournament. Head coach Lonn Reisman, who is 18th all-time with 585 Division II wins – all at Tarleton – knows Lee and others must be in top form in order to advance.
“We need Mo Lee to be the all-conference and all-region player he has become. We need him to show that and to provide leadership for this team, because he’s been through these battles,” said Reisman. “The same goes for our other seniors, guys like Davene Carter and Damion Clemons, we need their experience to shine Saturday.”
And it all starts with Lee, who will be looking to cut loose after being limited to just five shot attempts and seven points when Tarleton was upset by Texas A&M-Commerce in the semifinal round of last week’s conference tournament in Allen.
“We put that behind us very quickly because we know we have more basketball ahead,” Lee said. “In sports, you can’t focus on what already happened, you can only think about and get ready for what’s about to happen.”
That’s a focus Tarleton has tried to maintain all season.
“You don’t want to put more weight on any one game than you do another, you have to be careful about that,” said Reisman. “If you treat every game as a big game, then when the biggest one’s get here, you are already used to preparing the way you have to in order to win those big games. You can’t just all of a sudden prepare like it’s a big game because it’s the NCAA tournament.”
But make no mistake about it. Lee, and other seniors from teams across the country, are well aware this is their last ride.
“You just have to focus on each team you play, learn the game plan and do your best to give your team a chance to win,” said Lee. “That’s the only way to continue your season.”
And your college career. Which is now on the line every game.
“We are at home, I think that is a big advantage for us. I hope the fans come and get loud and support us because we need them,” said Lee. “This is what we have worked hard for all year is to get to host the regional in our gym and at our school.”