Dec. 13, 2008
DES MOINES, Iowa -
For the second time in as many days, the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjack basketball team found itself staring down a hard-charging opponent late in the second half at the Drake Knapp Center. And, for the second straight game, junior Walt Harris came up with some big shots down the stretch, as SFA held off Drake for a 66-64 win in the championship game of the Hy-Vee Classic.
Harris hit a layup on a dish by Eddie Williams to give SFA a four-point lead - 65-61 - with 20 seconds left. Then, after a Josh Young 3-pointer at the other end cut the lead to one with eight ticks left, Harris converted the front end of a one-and-one opportunity at the foul line to set the final score. Drake was unable to get a shot off at the buzzer, giving SFA its fifth consecutive win and first true road victory of the season.
Harris came off the bench for 11 points in 28 minutes, with all of his scoring coming after halftime. Likewise, senior Josh Alexander posted all of his team-high 18 points in the second period to lead four Lumberjacks in double figures. Seniors Benson Akpan and Nick Shaw scored 13 and 11 points, respectively.
SFA (6-2) outscored Drake (8-3), 13-2, in second-chance points in the second half, when the Lumberjacks built their lead to 12 points with 6:18 left to play. SFA would need every bit of that margin, as the Bulldogs went on a tear, cutting the lead to two, at 63-61, with 50 seconds remaining.
Young was integral in Drake's last gasp effort, as he was 4-for-4 on 3-pointers over the final four minutes of the game. He would finish with a game-high 22 points - 18 in the second period - and joined Alexander and Williams on the all-tournament team.
The score was tied at 26 at halftime. SFA led from the 11:55 point in the first period but couldn't pull away and never led by more than six points. Drake closed the gap to two points with 1:04 left then tied the score on a pair of free throws by Josh Parker with 42 seconds remaining.
With Alexander and Kingsley - SFA's top two scorers - limited by foul trouble in the opening period, and starting point guard Eric Bell sitting out due to an injury, the Lumberjacks got a strong total-team effort in the first half.
Shaw scored nine points in the first half, breaking down the Drake zone defense to get inside for high-percentage buckets. His layup with 16:50 left gave SFA a 4-3 lead, then he put the `Jacks in front, 6-5, with a dunk off a penetration and nice feed by Williams at the 14:08 mark. The senior forward also drained all three free throws after getting hit on a 3-point attempt and later drove the baseline for a layup that gave SFA its largest lead of the half, 16-10, at the 10-minute mark.
Akpan came off the bench for Kingsley at center after the latter picked up his second foul midway through the period. Akpan gave the Lumberjacks quality minutes, going 3-for-4 with a pair of free throws for eight first-half points. He would finish with a career-high 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting with a 3-for-3 effort at the foul line.
Alexander spent the last 16 minutes of the second half on the bench after picking up his second foul on a driving layup that was waved off just four minutes into the contest.
Behind Shaw and Akpan, SFA broke down the Drake zone to outscore the Bulldogs, 16-10, in the paint in the opening period. The Lumberjacks shot 45.5 percent from the floor and went 5-for-7 from the foul stripe.
Drake was able to stay within striking distance by getting to the line and knocking down 13 of its 17 foul shots in the opening period. The Bulldogs shot 37.5 percent from the field and were an uncharacteristic 1-for-7 from 3-point range in the opening period.
Drake rallied with a 50-percent effort from the floor and a 54.5-percent showing on 3-pointers in the second period, while the Lumberjacks sagged to 40 percent from the floor. But SFA pulled down seven offensive boards after halftime, including three by Alexander and two by Akpan, and made the second chances hurt.
With 16 minutes to play, Akpan was fouled on a layup following an offensive rebound and converted the 3-point play to give SFA a 35-28 lead, then the biggest of the night. After Drake tied the score at 35, three of the next four Lumberjack buckets - layups by Kingsley, Akpan and Alexander - came on second chances, as SFA built its lead back to seven (48-41) with 9:53 remaining.
Three minutes later, the Lumberjacks pushed the lead to double figures when Alexander canned a 3-pointer, then Harris ripped off a steal and knocked down a jumper to make it a 55-45 game.
Junior Girod Adams recorded a steal on the next Drake possession, then sank both free throws when he was fouled to give SFA the 12-point cushion it needed to withstand the Bulldogs' late charge.
Adams started at point guard and teamed with freshman Jarrod McDaniel to fill in for the injured Bell. The duo combined for four assists and just two turnovers in 36 minutes of action, and Adams added a pair of steals.
Williams drew the task of defending friend and fellow Lawton, Okla., native, Young. The sophomore guard contained his opponent, for the most part, until the game's final minutes, when Young scored 12 of his 22 points. Williams also saw duty at the point late in the game and finished with a career-high five assists and three steals to go along with his eight points.
Kingsley finished with eight points on 4-of-9 shooting and added five rebounds. Shaw and Akpan pulled down six boards apiece to tie Drake's Adam Templeton for game-high honors. The teams finished in a dead heat on the boards with 29 rebounds apiece.
Led by Harris and Akpan, the SFA bench outscored the Bulldog substitutes, 24-5. The Lumberjacks finished with a 15-13 edge in turnovers and outscored Drake, 13-9, off those miscues.
For the game, Drake out-shot SFA, 45 percent to 42 percent. The Lumberjacks posted their best night of the season at the foul line, knocking down 14 of their 17 attempts, including a 9-of-10 effort after halftime. Alexander, Shaw, Adams and Akpan were all perfect at the stripe.
The road win was the first of the season for SFA, while the Bulldogs suffered just their third home defeat in 26 games at the Knapp Center.
The Lumberjacks will resume action next weekend, when they open play in the Arkansas Jim Thorpe Classic. SFA will tip things off with a Friday game against Austin Peay. The contest against the Governors is set for a 7:05 p.m. start from Fayetteville, Ark.
- SFA -