Lumberjacks win Southland Championship

KATY, TX (AP) - Matt Kingsley almost left Stephen F. Austin after his redshirt freshman season because he wasn't getting enough playing time. He decided to stay, and four years later he can't imagine a better ending to his college career.

Kingsley scored 20 points and Stephen F. Austin earned the program's first NCAA tournament berth with a 68-57 victory over Texas-San Antonio on Sunday in the Southland Conference championship game.

The 6-foot-9 Kingsley, the league's player of the pear during the regular season, was also named the tournament's MVP.

"This is unbelievable, man," Kingsley said. "What an awesome way to go out, going to the NCAA tournament. You can't go out any better way."

Josh Alexander and Eddie Williams added 16 points each for the top-seeded Lumberjacks (24-7), who have won eight straight games. Stephen F. Austin won the league's regular-season title last season, too, but lost to Northwestern State in the semifinals of the conference tournament.

This year, the Lumberjacks ran onto the court to celebrate and were going to a nearby restaurant to watch the NCAA selection show and await their matchup.

"It's crazy," Williams said. "You dream of this when you're a kid, watching it on TV. You go to the gym to work on your game, just to get to this point, you know? I'm dumbfounded right now."

"We took some hard blows from them in the beginning," Stephen F. Austin coach Danny Kaspar said. "In timeouts, I told our guys, 'They're throwing their best punches at us, and we're not falling.'"

Once the euphoria dies down, Kaspar said he'll give his team a stern talk about getting refocused. Kaspar was an assistant coach under Billy Tubbs at Lamar in 1980, when the Cardinals upset Weber State and Oregon State to reach the Sweet 16.

"I'm going to tell them, 'We're not finished, guys,'" he said. "If you believe in yourself, anything can happen. We're going to win. We're not just going to participate."

The Lumberjacks earned a 14 seed in the tournament, and will face the 3 seed Syracuse in the first round on Friday from Miami, Fl.