By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (February 24, 2018) — No. 7 West Texas A&M (25-3, 15-3) captured its first Lone Star Conference league-wide championship since 1994 Saturday, and to do it the Buffs won at Tarleton State for the first time since 2009.
For the first time in nine seasons including four under head coach Tom Brown, it was the Buffs who managed to hold on down the stretch at Wisdom Gym. Senior All-American guard David Chavlovich was tasked with taking over in the final two minutes and proved up to the task play-after-play, none bigger than a left-wing 3 to stretch the Buff edge to 76-72 moments after Corinthian Ramsey buried a 3 to get Tarleton within one.
Chavlovich and Ramsey each scored 24, and each team had scorers with 18 and 17. The difference, said Tarleton head coach Lonn Reisman, came in the paint, where WT boasted a 38-10 scoring advantage – some of that due to Tarleton drawing fouls then hitting free throws – and in the final two minutes, when the Buffs moved ahead and Chavlovich made sure they stayed there by scoring 10 of the last 12 Buff points and hitting each of their last four field goals, two of them for 3.
The last time the Buffs won any kind of regular-championship in the LSC was in the South Division in 1999. Back then the home team seemed to always win between WT and Tarleton. But this year, the visitors spoiled the party thrown by the home delegation each time.
“Their bigs outplayed our bigs inside, and that was the difference in the game,” said Reisman, whose Texans finish in a tie alongside Texas A&M-Commerce for third in the LSC. “That and they made the big plays in the least two minutes. We didn’t make those plays, and that’s what we had was a game that came down to the last two minutes.”
Brown knows from three prior trips to Stephenville just how tough Wisdom Gym can be on opponents, and was honored to win his first conference title as a head coach at such a place.
“With me we’re 1 out of 4 here now, so it’s tough here. They have a great team, their coaching staff does a great job preparing and they have fans who understand the game,” said Brown. “That makes it a great environment and a tough place to play. Before, I think they have got to our guys a little bit, but I thought we did a better job today of staying focused.”
Now they can focus on ordering jewelry for the ring finger Chavlovich kept pointing to after making big shots down the stretch. But only for a few days, the same time Tarleton, which had won six straight including a rout of UTPB Thursday, has to put the loss behind them. The Texans face either Angelo State or Cameron in the opening round of the LSC Championship after splitting with both during the regular season.
The Buffs will be the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament next week in Frisco. UTPB is the No. 2 seed, while a coin toss will determine who between Tarleton and A&M-Commerce will be the No. 3 and No. 4 seeds.
An eight-team, single-elimination event with the winner earning automatic access to the NCAA Division II Championship as one of eight teams competing in the South Central Region, the LSC Championship, on paper, is as wide open as ever with no one in the league holding a win streak longer than two games, that belonging to A&M-Commerce. The Buffs lost by a point to the Lions on Thursday. UTPB lost to Tarleton and A&M-Commerce this week.
The conference championship begins Thursday and concludes on Sunday. The qualifying mens and women’s teams will arrive in Frisco Wednesday for the annual LSC awards banquet.
The Buffs led by as many as 11 in the first half, but Tarleton cut it to 35-31 by the break. At that point, WT had made 14 field goals to just six by the Texans, but Reisman’s strategy of drawing fouls and earning stoppages to prevent the high-octane Buffs from steadily running and gunning their way to a large lead worked once again. The Texans were 17-20 from the stripe to keep pace the first 20 minutes.
Once the dust settled, Tarleton was 33-41 from the stripe and WT 13-17. That wasn’t enough, however to overcome 30 Buff field goals with Tarleton hitting only 17.
Tarleton scored the fist six points points of the second half for a 37-35 lead, and it was back and forth from there. WT scored the next seven, then Tarleton hit a 3 to pull within two. No one led by more than six the rest of the way.
Reisman says Tarleton missed its chance to take control leading 54-51.
“That’s when you have to put your foot down on the gas and get some separation and we didn’t do that tonight. They’re a great team, you leave them within just one or two possessions, and they can get you.”
WTAMU doesn’t enjoy Tarleton’s half-court game, and lost battling against it earlier this season in Canyon.
The Buffs shot 50 percent in the rematch and handed Tarleton just its third home loss after the Texans had snapped their 29-game home win streak.
Tarleton shot just 39 percent and neither team lit it up from arc, where WTAMU was 8-25 and Tarleton just 6-17.
Ryan Quaid and Gaige Prim were the 18 and 17 point scorers for WTAMU, and the contributions of Gach Gach, who hit his first three 3-point tries and scored 11, can not be overlooked.
Deshawn Riddick provided 18 points and Jaraan Lands 17, then came a big dip to the next scorers – Josh Hawley and Jesse Hill with six each.
In his final regular season game for the Buffs, Chavlovich filled out the stat sheet with seven assists, five rebounds and two steals. Quaid skied for eight rebounds before his fouling out with just less than four minutes left.
For Tarleton, Hawley collected nine boards while Ramsey had three assists and three steals.
The Buffs had 34 rebounds and arleton 27 and 16 assists to 10 by the Texans.
West Texas A&M 82
|48.28 %||31.25 %||100.00 %|
|57.14 %||33.33 %||73.33 %|
|52.6 %||32.1 %||76.5 %|
|Technical Fouls: none||Second Chance Points: 12||Scores Tied: 2 time(s)|
|Points in the Paint: 38||Fast Break Points: 8||Lead Changed: 4 time(s)|
|Points off Turnovers: 18||Bench Points: 25||Largest Lead: 11 1st-09:02|
Tarleton State 76
|35.29 %||22.22 %||85.00 %|
|44.00 %||50.00 %||76.19 %|
|40.5 %||39.1 %||80.5 %|
|Technical Fouls: none||Second Chance Points: 9||Scores Tied: 9 time(s)|
|Points in the Paint: 10||Fast Break Points: 5||Lead Changed: 4 time(s)|
|Points off Turnovers: 17||Bench Points: 11||Largest Lead: 3 1st-16:53|