SFA Advances To Tournament Title Game

Senior Desmond Haymon scored 27 points to propel SFA to the SLC Tourney title game on Saturday.

March 14, 2014

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KATY, Texas - Behind 27 points from senior Desmond Haymon, the top-seeded Stephen F. Austin men's basketball team held off fourth-seeded Northwestern State in a 85-78 victory on Friday night in Katy to pick up the first 30-win season in Southland Conference history and advance to the tournament title game for a second straight year. 

The Lumberjacks (30-2) will play third-seeded Sam Houston State in the championship game on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN2. The winner will get the league's automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament.

SFA's 30th win breaks a tie with the SLC's 1984-85 Louisiana Tech squad that went 29-3 with an appearance in the Sweet 16. The `Jacks, with the won over NWST (17-14), also extend their overall win streak to 27 games, which sits second in the nation behind No. 2 Wichita State.

SFA took a 10-point lead into the lockerroom and built it to 16 points (58-42), before the Demons made a charge. NWST's Jalan West, who scored a career-high 36 points, netted 25 points in the second half to pull the Demons back within reach.

The `Jacks held the lead for 21:24, before a made three-pointer from West gave the Demons a 68-65 edge with 7:04 remaining. SFA then tied it on three separate occasions, before reclaiming advantage. Down 74-71 with 4:46 to go, senior Deshaunt Walker hit a three-pointer for the 'Jacks to spark a 14-4 down the stretch. NWST did not record a made field goal the final 3:31, with its last points coming on made free throws with 2:29 remaining.

Haymon paced SFA on the night, finishing 8-of-15 from the floor. The native of Pickens, Miss., collected half of his made field goals beyond the arc, also finishing 7-of-8 from the free throw line.

Haymon was one of four `Jacks to finish in double figures. SLC Player of the Year Jacob Parker, collected 10 points and was a perfect 4-for-4 from the line while limited due to foul trouble. Six of his 10 points came after the `Jacks broke their tie late in the second half, all coming with under 2:40 t go. Parker hit two free throws with eight seconds remaining to exorcise SFA's demons against the Demons and advance propel the `Jacks onward.

Off the bench, junior Connor Brooks and Walker accounted for all but one point of the 29 `Jack bench points. Walker finished with 15 points and Brooks netted a career-high 13 points, all coming in the first half.

Hometown native Trey Pinkney tied his career-high with nine assists, with just two turnovers in 32 minutes played

SFA forced 13 NWST turnovers and turned them into 15 points in holding a 15-5 advantage in the category.

Brooks and Walker paved the way for SFA in the first half, combining for all 22 points scored off the bench. Brooks netted a career-high 13 points in the first half, on 5-of-8 shooting. The native of Manhattan, Kan., made 3-of-5 from behind the arc. Enter the game the most three-pointers he had ever made in a game was one, a mark he hit seven time throughout the season.

The `Jacks will make their sixth appearance in the conference tournament title game on Saturday. SFA, now 6-2 as the top seed and 9-5 in Katy, are 1-4 all-time in the championship game. The `Jacks won their only SLC Tournament championship game in 2009, knocking off then sixth-seeded Texas-San Antonio.

Postgame Quotes:

Stephen F. Austin Coach: Brad Underwood
"Great college basketball game. Two really good teams...I hope the nation got to see that and enjoy that. That was a game with two good teams and lot of really good basketball players. That was a high-level game. I've been in a lot of places in my career and haven't seen a game where everybody just made plays. Both of these guys are the heart and soul of our basketball team. We didn't guard very well...we got outrebounded which is something we don't do. We lead the league in rebounding. We had some really awkward line-ups in there. Northwestern State caused a lot of those problems. We got a great contribution from Connor Brooks off the bench as well...him stepping up and playing well in the first half.  The key for us was we turned the ball over 10 times...two the first half. This team is so resilient."

On the play of Northwestern State's Jalan West:
"Part of guarding a really good player is trying to make him earn it. He got off to a great start. When you are a really good basketball player, sometimes it doesn't matter who is guarding you. He got into a great rhythm. He is terrific...he's a good basketball player. He is a terrific talent."

On getting back into the championship game:
"It's this teams goal. This isn't about me at all. This is about these seniors. The most important thing to me is the camaraderie they have in the locker room. I value these seniors...they deserve the opportunity. We are going to go out tomorrow and face a really good basketball team."

Stephen F. Austin guard: Desmond Haymon
On his feelings on winning tonight's game:
"Going into tonight...we knew it was going to be a battle. We had to get focus...we knew it wouldn't be an easy game because Northwestern State is a great team. I just wanted to be a leader of this team. I had to let my team know that we have to fight for every possession. We didn't play great defense but we did get stops at the end when we needed them."

On having to regroup after losing 16-point lead:
Basketball is about a game of runs. We had to keep our composure and settle down and relax. We had to continue to play SFA basketball and ease our way back into it."



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