Tarleton upends rival Texas A&M-Commerce in high-scoring thriller


STEPHENVILLE – If Saturday was the final time that the Tarleton-Texas A&M-Commerce rivalry happens on the basketball court, it was one to remember for the NCAA Division I-bound Texans.

Tarleton rebounded from a tough loss Thursday night to defeat Texas A&M-Commerce 94-91 in Wisdom Gym Saturday. The Texans will take the momentum from this win into a nine-day layoff for the Christmas holiday and will return to action Tuesday, Dec. 31 against Champion Christian at 4 p.m. in Wisdom Gym.

A brand-new starting five sparked the Texan offense from the get-go.

Senior Zach Naylor and freshman Isaiah Range joined the starting five Saturday and the latter was unstoppable over the first half. Range scored nine points in his first seven minutes of court time in the opening half.

The new lineup sparked a quick start for Tarleton as the Texans built a 27-12 lead over the first eight minutes of the game, but Commerce would not go away as the Lions clawed back with a 15-0 run to start the game over again at 27-27 and eventually take a 38-35 lead with 5:33 left in the opening half.

Tarleton answered with a 12-7 run to take a 47-45 lead into halftime.

Commerce battled back and took a seven-point lead as late as 7:15 in the half, but then Javontae Hopkins took over. The freshman scored 12 of Tarleton’s next 15 points over three minutes to turn a seven-point deficit into an 83-78 lead.

Tarleton clung to a slim lead and took a three-point edge into the final minute. The Texans fouled a Lion on a three-point attempt with five seconds on the clock, sending Austin Grandstaff to the charity stripe for three shots and a chance to tie the game. He would only make two of the three.

Zach Naylor was fouled on the inbounds pass and connected on both free throws at the other end before the game-tying three-point attempt for the Lions rimmed out and Tarleton collected its first Lone Star Conference win of the season.

Hopkins (25) and Range (15) combined for 40 points in the win as two of four Texans to reach double figures. Josh Hawley (14) and Randall Broddie (15) combined for 29 more in the starting lineup while Naylor (9), Devin Bethely (8), Isaiah Boling (5) and Clashon Gaffney (3) rounded out the scoring.

Hawley moved up the Tarleton record books with a 14-point, 11-rebound effort. His 14 points moved him past Steve Sassman into fifth place on Tarleton’s all-time scoring list with 1,327 points. He also moved into a tie with Jerry King for third place all-time with his 33rd career double-double.

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