SFA Athletics Release
Trailing in enemy territory with one of your stars relegated to the bench after fouling out and the other laid up on the trainer's table with an injury is not an enviable position to be in, but that's the situation the Stephen F. Austin men's basketball team found itself in on Saturday night.
Instead of wilting at the sight of a double-digit deficit with less than five minutes to go, the 'Jacks rallied together behind a couple of big shots from their lone senior and kept their hopes alive for a top-tier seed as the postseason draws closer.
Eliminating a 13-point second-half deficit by making use of a large portion of Ivan Canete's team-high 16 points as well as freshman Kevon Harris' 13, the 'Jacks forced overtime and hit six free throws in the final 26 seconds of the extra session to claim a dramatic 90-85 triumph over Central Arkansas inside the Farris Center.
Once the overtime session started, SFA sucked the air out of the Farris Center by netting nine of the first 10 points in the frame in the first 1:43. UCA, wanting to send their seniors out with a win in their final home game, answered with a 9-1 run of its own with the points coming exclusively from Mathieu Kamba and Derreck Brooks.
Needing to score, Canete elected to drive and after getting hacked on a layup attempt the junior quieted a raucous UCA congregation by hitting a pair of free throws with 26 seconds to go that put the 'Jacks on top for good. UCA missed four free throws as well as its last two field goal tries in the closing seconds.
Coming into Saturday as the league's top free throw shooting team, one of the Bears' biggest strengths ended up letting them down as the game wore on. Central Arkansas converted just 15 of its 32 tries (46.9-percent) from the line. Personifying the Bears' struggles at the line was Mathieu Kamba who missed a potential go-ahead try at the line with 1.9 seconds left in regulation. He finished the game just 2-for-10 from the stripe.
"Our senior Dallas Cameron hit some huge shots and did a great job all night keeping our guys together and our staff did a good job keeping everyone engaged on the bench," said SFA head coach Kyle Keller. "Ivan made a couple shots that really counted and got us off to a good start and kept us in the game at time."
Before fouling out with 3:25 left, Holyfield had finished off a 12-point, 12-rebound double-double effort. Many of Holyfield's buckets were assisted and in all the 'Jacks passed out 22 assists while committing only 12 turnovers in the win.
In all, five 'Jacks put in 10 or more points as Gilmore III put in 13 of his own while senior Dallas Cameron added 12 - including a go-ahead three-pointer with 1:27 left in regulation. Cameron's 30-foot triple was made possible by one of Canete's game and career-high eight assists.
Central Arkansas controlled the game for much of the first half and as a result the 'Jacks led for just 2:19 in the frame. During that surge, Canete capped a 5-0 SFA run with a wing three-pointer off an assist from freshman Aaron Augustin.
Thatch Unruh hit one of his three three-pointers with eight seconds remaining in the first half, giving the Bears a 38-33 advantage heading into the locker room.
Canete opened up the second half by banking in a driving layup, but that was one of just two field goals the 'Jacks could connect on through the first 5:40 of the deciding frame. The same shooting deficiencies that plagued the 'Jacks during that stretch were not present in UCA's corner as the Bears drilled five of their first nine tries from the field to open up a 50-37 lead with 13:37 left.
UCA maintained its 13-point advantage after Howard drilled an acrobatic runner in the lane to make matters 54-41 with 12:30 left, but then the 'Jacks unearthed their offense and made their comeback bid.
Canete splashed triples on back-to-back Lumberjack possessions, pulling SFA within single digits for the first time since 16:41 showed on the game clock. UCA's lead remained at 10 points, 69-59, after Unruh capped a 5-0 run with a layup off of an offensive rebound with 4:48 remaining.
Refusing to give up, Canete, Cameron and Harris scored each and every point of a 14-2 surge by the visitors over a 4:02 span that put the 'Jacks up 73-70 with 41 seconds to go. Cameron hit back-to-back three's in that run and Harris ended it with a wide-open tip-in after an assist by Canete.
On the ensuing UCA possession, Unruh hit a mid-range jumper and Harris split a pair of free throws for SFA on the 'Jacks end with 13 seconds left. Needing a dose of defense to lock down a regulation win, the 'Jacks instead fouled Kamba as the guard hit a layup with 1.9 ticks left.
Kamba finished with a game-high 18 points, Unruh added 17 and Jordan Howard put in 16 for the Bears in a losing effort.
Both teams hit 47-percent of their tries from the field but the 'Jacks shot 40-percent (10-for-25) from three-point range and 72-percent (18-for-25) from the foul line to secure the win.
Now that their 2016-17 road schedule is in the books, the 'Jacks return to William R. Johnson Coliseum to close out their regular season schedule. First up in a two-game week is a Thursday night matchup with longtime Louisiana rival Northwestern State. Tip-off has been scheduled for 8:00 p.m.
"We're just focused on Thursday night at this point," Keller finished. "You look at Northwestern State and they're coming into town with their top player, Zeek Woodley, back. It's going to be our most difficult game and hopefully tonight's game gives us some confidence and momentum."