Commerce topples Tarleton in Lone Star tourney opener

COMMERCE – Rashida Wilson hit a pair of free throws with 8.1 seconds left and Texas A&M University-Commerce survived two potential game-winners in the final seconds to topple Tarleton State 60-59 in the first round of the Lone Star Conference Tournament Tuesday night at the A&M-Commerce Field House.

Wilson, who missed all six of her field goal attempts in the game, buried four free throws in the closing minute as A&M-Commerce (16-12) scored the final six points of the game and erased a five-point deficit.

Down 59-54 with just over a minute to play, she hit a pair of foul shots to make it 59-56. Tarleton State’s Isha Brown then missed the front end of a one-and-one which was followed by Althea Byfield’s putback of a Kanani Marshal 3-point attempt.

Another Tarleton (19-9) missed free throw, this time from Iveta Griffin, set up Wilson’s heroics. She got to the center of the lane and dished to Portia Mitchell who missed a layup. Wilson got the rebound and put up two missed layups of her own before being fouled on the third attempt. Both of her free throws, split up by a Tarleton State timeout, touched nothing but net.

“She wants the ball in her hands,” said A&M Commerce head coach Denny Downing “(Rashida) does so many things for us.”

One thing Wilson has done for the Lady Lions all season has been distributing the basketball. She had eight assists against Tarleton State, enough to pass Cherie Washington as the school’s single-season record holder. Washington had 149 assists during the 1992-93 season while Wilson has 156 this year.

Tuesday night marked just the second time in the 23-year history of the Lone Star Conference tournament that A&M-Commerce played host to a tournament game. It was also 23 years to the day since the Lady Lions’ first tournament appearance, an 87-78 loss to Southwestern Oklahoma State in Feb. 28, 1983.

Downing made it a point to tell his squad that tournament games were different than any others they had experienced this year.

“What I told them was that the first games of the tournament were always the toughest. Someone always gets upset and it’s not going to be us,” he said.

Tuesday night’s game was certainly tougher than the previous meeting between the two, an 83-64 A&M-Commerce win on January 5. Downing said the difference tonight was the TexAnns’ shooting touch, particularly guard Katie Crawford, who hit six 3-pointers on her way to a game-high 26 points.

“They just shot it really well tonight,” he said “Crawford was lights out. What a tremendous player.”

Crawford, who stands just 5-5, also had a game-high 10 rebounds and Griffin chipped in 14 points but no other TexAnns player had more than six points. In contrast the Lady Lions got at least three points from everyone on the roster and were led by Marshal’s 17 points, Katedria Mosley’s 14 and Byfield’s nine. Marshal hit five 3-pointers, upping her single-season record total to 92 and both teams combined to hoist 43 three-point attempts. A&M-Commerce hit on 7 of its 19 attempts while Tarleton State made just nine of 24 attempts.

Dawn Montgomery had seven rebounds to lead the Lady Lions while Mosley had six.

A&M-Commerce’s largest lead came with 12:39 to go when Montgomery’s 15-footer gave the Lady Lions a 50-43 lead. But Tarleton State came back with a 16-4 run to take a 59-54 lead with just over a minute to go.

“We’ve been there before,” Downey said of his team’s late deficit. “We know what we’re going to do in that situation. We did it and got a win.”

A&M Commerce, the No. 3 seed in the LSC South, moves on to the tournament semifinals in Canyon where they will take on West Texas A&M, the South’s No. 1 seed and a 91-63 winner over Cameron on Tuesday night. Game time is yet to be determined.

Wesley stuns UMHB in Belton, advances to national semi-finals

This article appeared online and in the print edition of the News Journal in Dover, Delaware.

Wesley College coach Mike Drass had lofty expectations as the Wolverines prepared for Saturday’s NCAA Division III football playoff game against Mary Hardin-Baylor.
“We knew coming into the game that UMHB was, without a doubt, the best team we had ever played,” Drass said. “We knew we would need to be perfect.”
Larry Beavers caught four touchdown passes and Chris Warrick threw for 357 yards as the Wolverines (11-1) stunned the fourth-ranked Crusaders 46-36 before almost 4,000 fans.
“I don’t know if we were perfect, but we played hard for four quarters,” Drass said.
Warrick connected with Beavers on scoring strikes of 54, 26, 50 and 76 yards, and the Wolverines made three fourth-down stops in the fourth quarter for their second straight playoff win. Wesley will play host to Bridgewater (Va.) in the quarterfinals next Saturday at a time to be determined.
“We respect the living daylights out of Mary Hardin-Baylor. They’re a great team,” Drass said. “I’m just so proud of my guys.”
Warrick and Beavers connected for the first time late in the first quarter with Wesley leading 10-7. After a UMHB punt, Warrick hit Beavers in stride on the first play for a 54-yard bomb and a 17-7 lead.
Wesley was up 17-14 in the second quarter when Warrick found Beavers again. This time, the junior quarterback threw behind Beavers and cornerback Coby Coleman. Beavers came back to the ball, made the grab and waltzed into the end zone.
Warrick, who completed 15-of-31 passes and was picked off twice in the second half, said the attention the Crusaders paid to Marcus Lee, the Wolverines’ leading receiver, played a large part in Beavers’ big day.
But UMHB coach Pete Fredenburg saw things simply.
“The way it looked to me, he was just faster than us,” Fredenburg said. “We did some things we’ll regret.”
Wesley defensive end Bryan Robinson forced tailback Freddie Rollins into his third fumble of the first half and Warrick immediately went to the air, finding Beavers for a 50-yard TD that gave Wesley a 37-20 halftime lead.
Robinson forced a pair of fumbles and recovered another as the Crusaders lost all four of Rollins’ fumbles in the first half. Wesley turned those mistakes into 21 points.
Rollins, carrying the entire rushing load in place of injured starter Justin Bryson, finished with 179 yards on a school-record 42 carries. He broke free on the second play from scrimmage and went 71yards to give UMHB a 7-0 lead.
“Freddie Rollins is as good a running back as you’re going to see at this level,” Drass said.
The Crusaders kept the ball for 40:06 to 19:54 for Wesley. But Robinson and his teammates came up big when it mattered most. The Crusaders drove inside the Wesley 30-yard line four times in the fourth quarter, yet managed only a field goal. Twice, Wesley stopped UMHB inside the 5-yard line.
First, on fourth-and-2 from the Wesley 5, linebacker Brandon Huntbach dropped Rollins for a three-yard loss.
“I saw that little pitch and I thought it was a touchdown for sure,” Drass said. “Brandon came in and made a great play.”
After the Wolverines turned it over on a fumble, the Crusaders got a 32-yard field goal from Zach Newcomb to cut the deficit to 39-29. But on the Wolverines’ next play from scrimmage, Warrick hit Beavers on a post pattern that he took 76 yards to make it 46-29.
“We felt like no one had attacked Mary Hardin-Baylor, like we had the athletes and the personnel to go at them,” Warrick said. “We felt like they played their safeties entirely too tight. We thought we could get play-action on them.”
Now, the Wolverines are two victories away from the Stagg Bowl, the Division III championship game.
“After the game, I told these guys a story about a team that no one gave any credit to and they ended up making it to the national championship game,” Drass said. “I told them, ‘They’re right behind you.’ “