Provided by South Plains College:
HUTCHINSON, Kan. –
The South Plains College Texan basketball team faced something during Wednesday
night's game against No. 3 Monroe College that they have not faced all season –
a double-digit deficit nearly midway into the second half.
The Texans prevailed, however, keeping their perfect season and, more importantly, their chance of winning the NJCAA title intact.
"We found a way to win and I can't really tell you how we did it," head coach Steve Green said after the game. "They kept us so off balance with what they were doing defensively."
South Plains (34-0) trailed at halftime by five, 31-26, and the two teams teetered back and forth in the opening minutes of the second half before Monroe put together a little run to take a 49-38 lead with 13 minutes remaining.
Freshman Yanick Moreira made a statement with a dunk on Monroe's Orlando Sanchez, drawing a foul and converting a free throw in the process.
After Monroe pushed the lead back to 10, Moreira made another big shot falling away in the paint.
Moreira led all scorers with a game high 18 points, 13 of which came in the second half. He also recorded a double-double for the second consecutive game with 10 rebounds.
Even though Monroe pushed the lead back to 10 yet again, those two shots proved vital leading up to SPC's rally.
Marshall Henderson hit a bucket from the elbow that began a 9-1 scoring run. Derrell Edwards followed Henderson's bucket with a 3-pointer opposite the scoring table, bringing the Texans back to within five.
"He (Edwards) really turned the game around," Henderson said of his teammate. "And we fed off of his energy."
With 8:25 to go in the game Edwards struck again with a baseline drive completed with a reverse layup that tied the game at 54 apiece.
Moments later Greg Gainey gave the Texans their first lead since the midway point of the first half when he took an alley-oop pass from Devonte Smith to push South Plains ahead 56-54.
The Texans would not surrender their lead as Henderson went under the basket for a reverse layup of his own. Gainey gave SPC a six point lead when he converted an offensive rebound into an easy basket.
Poor shooting from the free throw line prevented South Plains from pulling away earlier than they did, but six straight points from Henderson in the final minute would ultimately seal the deal, giving the Texans the opportunity to play in the semi-final round at 6 p.m. Friday evening.
"I have to give a lot of credit to these guys who never quit," said Green, who is now one win shy of 300 as head coach of the Texans. "As soon as we got back into it the enthusiasm in the huddle is probably what carried us over.
South Plains recovered from a poor shooting first half (10-of-34), making 19-of-38 (.500) in the second half. The Texans put up 14 more attempts (72) than the Mustangs and grabbed 21 offensive rebounds that Green considered to be the difference in the game.
South Plains will now put their perfect record on the line against eighth-ranked Eastern Oklahoma State College (32-3). The Mountaineers defeated Spartanburg Methodist 78-70 in the game that followed SPC's victory.
Friday's game, as well as every NJCAA tournament game, can be seen on NJCAA TV at www.njcaa.org. KLVT radio is also carrying a live feed on KLVT 1230 AM and online at www.klvtradio.com.