SFA Moves Past Southeastern

March 12, 2009

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KATY, Texas - Josh Alexander sealed Stephen F. Austin's outright claim to a second straight Southland Conference championship with six free throws in the final 11 seconds of the Lumberjacks' season finale at UTSA last week. Thursday, he all but put the wraps on SFA's first-round win in the 2009 State Farm Southland Conference Tournament.

Alexander drained a 3-pointer with 1:34 to play, pushing what had been a precarious six-point lead to a nine-point margin, and propelling SFA to a 67-56 verdict over Southeastern Louisiana. The senior from Shreveport, La., tied a season-best with 25 points and went 6-for-8 from 3-point range, finishing two triples shy of tying the SLC Tournament single-game record.

The win is SFA's sixth straight and improves the Lumberjacks to 22-7 on the season. Southeastern Louisiana closed out the regular season by winning four consecutive games to earn a postseason bid, but the No. 8 Lions end their season with a 13-17 overall mark.

"Last year, we didn't get as far as we wanted," Alexander said of the Lumberjacks' semifinal defeat in the 2008 SLC Tournament. "We felt like we left a lot on the table. Last year, I was hurt; this year I'm 100 percent. I don't want to leave anything out there."

Alexander's 3-pointer came after classmate Matt Kingsley rebounded his own missed shot to keep what was a crucial SFA possession alive. The Lions had hit a pair of free throws on two consecutive touches to whittle what had been a 10-point lead down to six (58-52) with 3:20 to go.

The offensive board was one of a career-high 17 for Kingsley, who also scored 13 points to post his eighth double-double of the season. For the game, SFA outrebounded the Lions, 41-30.

"I guess that's simply effort," Kingsley said. "I don't want to criticize (Southeastern's) effort, but I think ours was really good this game. When it's tournament time, everything is turned up a notch."

SFA led by double figures early in the game, but the Lions took advantage of some Lumberjack shooting struggles in the second period and cut the margin to as few as five in the opening minutes of the second period. SFA never led by more than 12 until the closing moments, when the Lions were forced to foul.

"At one point, I thought we were headed for a higher scoring game, but we really clamped down in the second half," SFA head coach Danny Kaspar said.

The Lumberjacks shot just 28.6 percent in the second frame, but held Southeastern to a 30-percent effort after halftime, including an 0-for-7 showing from 3-point range. The Lions shot 35.8 percent for the game and connected on 18.2 percent of their 3-point attempts.

For the game, the Lumberjacks shot just 38.5 percent from the field, but SFA hit a season-high 11 3-pointers and went 16-for-17 at the foul stripe, posting its second-best free throw-shooting night of the season.

Junior guard Walt Harris went 6-for-6 at the line to lead the way and join Alexander and Kingsley in double digits, tying a career-high with 11 points. Junior point guard Eric Bell added seven points and five assists, and senior Nick Shaw scored six points.

Sophomore guard Eddie Williams played sparingly but knocked down his only 3-point attempt of the game to contribute to the cause, and Benson Akpan added two points and three rebounds.

Brandon Fortenberry paced Southeastern with 13 points.

The Lumberjacks opened the game with a 50-percent effort from the field in the first half, marking the eighth time this season for SFA to break .500 in the opening frame. Alexander scored 17 points on 5-of-7 shooting, including a 4-of-5 effort from 3-point range. As a team, SFA knocked down seven threes in the first period, a season-high.

The `Jacks led by as many as 12 on two separate occasions in the first half. Their second such lead was a 29-17 advantage gained at the 6:36 mark on an Alexander jumper. But SFA endured a four-minute scoring drought as Southeastern clawed back to within five points on a 7-0 run.

SFA committed five of its eight first-half turnovers during that drought before Kingsley stopped the bleeding with a free throw at the 2:33 mark, and Alexander canned a triple with 2:25 to play, making it a 33-24 game.

The Lumberjacks went to the break with a 37-28 lead. SFA was outscored, 14-8, in the paint but held a 19-10 advantage in rebounding at halftime, led by eight boards from Kingsley. SFA began the game with a 6-0 edge in rebounding over the first five minutes.

The Lumberjacks advance to a tournament semifinal game set for Friday at 8:30 p.m. The game will be televised on Southland TV (SuddenLink cable channel 8 in Nacogdoches). SFA will meet No. 4 Texas A&M-Corpus Christi The Islanders notched a 79-72 verdict over UT-Arlington in Thursday's late game.

-- SFA --


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