Released by SFA Media Relations
NACOGDOCHES, Texas – The Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks caught fire from behind the arc on Saturday night to separate itself from astingy Texas A&M-Corpus Christi squad and claim the outright Southland Conference title with a 58-49 win over the Islanders at William R. Johnson Coliseum.
SFA (26-3, 16-2 SLC) tied the school record for wins in the Division I era with its 26th of the season and will enter the Southland Conference Tournament as the No. 1 overall seed with a pair of byes into the semifinals. The ‘Jacks will play an opponent to be determined on Friday at 5:00 p.m. at the Leonard E. Merrell Center.
"I'm so proud of this team," head coach Danny Kaspar said after the win. "We did not play as well as we have in other games tonight, but much of that was due to a much improved Corpus Christi team who played veryhard. Still, we were able to get the job done and it's always nice to be able to celebrate a championship on your home floor."
Taylor Smith recorded his 10th double-double of the year with 17 points, 12 rebounds, five assists and three blocks; however, it was Antonio Bostic and Desmond Haymon who did much of the heavy lifting in the second half, combining to hit six of SFA's seven three-point buckets in opening up a narrow game midway through the second period.
Haymon finished with 16 points, including four triples, and Bostic added 14 points and four second-half threes to go along with four assists. In all, SFA hit nine of its 18 tries from beyond the arc and dished out assists on 19 of its 21 made baskets on the evening with just five turnovers.
The Islanders (6-23, 5-13 SLC) got 15 points from reigning SLC Player of the Week Will Nelson, and 13 points and eight assists from point guard Johnathan Jordan; but, still shot just 42 percent for the game and were held to just 20 points in the second half.
It took a pair of foul shots with less than a second to go in the opening half from Desmond Haymon to give SFA a narrow 30-29 lead at the break after the Islanders shot 55.6 percent from the floor in the first period, including three of four from three-point range.
Neither team led by more than three points in the first period with each team leading by as much as four points. A quick five points from the Islanders gave them a three-point lead with less than a minute to go, but a layup from Thomas Walkup was followed by a defensive stop and then Haymon's foul shots after a breakaway to give the ‘Jacks the slim lead at the break.
The second half started with a good omen for SFA as Jacob Parker canned a triple on SFA's first possession of the half, but five minutes into the period it was the Islanders that held a 37-34 lead after points from Jordan and Zane Knowles.
But that is when Bostic went to work, hitting four threes in a six-minute stretch as part of a 14-2 Lumberjack run that turned a three-point deficit into an 11-point advantage with seven minutes to play.
Then, after SFA traded buckets with the Islanders, Haymon connected on a pair of threes on consecutive possessions, giving the ‘Jacks a comfortable 14-point lead with under four minutes to play, essentially icing the game from there.
The win gives SFA its 20th conference title, but just its third Southland crown. The 2013 squad now joins the 2008 and 2009 Lumberjack squads as the only SFA teams to capture league titles since the ‘Jacks joined the Division I ranks.