LIONS SEASON ENDS IN ALLEN FOLLOWING 92-84 LOSS TO MUSTANGS
Midwestern State 92, A&M-Commerce 84
Lone Star Conference Quarterfinals
Location: Allen Event Center · Allen, Texas
Records: A&M-Commerce (14-15); Midwestern State (20-7)
ALLEN, Texas – A&M-Commerce gave everything it had against top-seeded Midwestern State, battling even with the Mustangs through the first 20 minutes. But a dominant second half for MSU proved to be the difference as the Lions' season ends in Allen following a 92-84 loss to the Mustangs in the LSC quarterfinals.
"We did everything we set out to do and followed the game plan we put in place," said head coach Sam Walker. "We outrebounded them and forced them to take bad shots, but they just hit them. But I'm incredibly proud of this team, especially our seniors. We talk about doing things the right way every day, and this team did that. I'm proud that they represent A&M-Commerce in the right ways."
A&M-Commerce closes out the season 14-15, dropping its final five games of the season. It also marks the third-straight season the Lions have come up short against the Mustangs in the conference quarterfinals.
Four Lions finished in double figures on the evening, led by an impressive performance by senior Andrew Davis in his final game. Davis posted his sixth double-double of the season, leading A&M-Commerce with 18 points and 12 rebounds, closing out a stellar career.
Fellow senior Preston Whitley added a team-high 19 points while Stefon Carson added 13 points with six assists as the duo suited up for the final time in a Lion uniform. Junior Devondrick Walker came up big as well, notching 13 points with three rebounds as well for A&M-Commerce.
Sluggish shooting once again proved to be the difference as the Lions hit just 36.5 percent of their shots for the game, but were a respectable 40.0 percent from three-point range (10-25). Meanwhile the Mustangs shot 59 percent for the game but the difference came in the second half as Midwestern State shot 70 percent from the floor, distancing itself from A&M-Commerce.
After splitting the first two meetings, A&M-Commerce and Midwestern State continued to show the depth of the conference this season, matching each other basket for basket in the early going. The Lions built a 12-7 lead off a three from Whitley, only to see the Mustangs respond with a 6-0 run to build a four-point advantage at 16-12 with 14:30 remaining in the opening half.
Jackson then found his scoring touch, hitting back-to-back baskets for the Lions, including a three from the corner to give A&M-Commerce the lead once again at 19-18. After another Midwestern State run, the Lion duo of Whitley and Davis began to head up as a tip-in and a pair of free throws, followed by a three from Whitley, gave A&M-Commerce the lead once again at 33-29 with 6:30 to go.
A&M-Commerce kept the Mustangs at bay in the following minutes, keeping a four-point cushion at 39-35 with 3:54 remaining. But Midwestern State began to reclaim its assertiveness down the stretch, outscoring A&M-Commerce 10-2 over the final four minutes to take a 45-41 lead into the locker room.
The Mustangs came out of the locker room quickly, building a seven-point lead at 50-43. A&M-Commerce then began to struggle from the floor, paving the way for a 15-4 Mustang lead over the next four minutes as Midwestern State took a commanding 65-49 lead with 13:50 remaining.
Walker began to find his groove, hitting back-to-back threes while forcing a steal as the Lions pulled to within 11 at 71-60 with just over 11 minutes to go. But more clutch shooting by Midwestern State pushed its lead to a game-high 18 at 78-60 near the midway mark of the second half.
Carson did his part to help trim the deficit, using back-to-back transition lay-ups to cut the Mustang lead to 13 at 78-65 with just under eight minutes to go. But the Lions struggles from the floor reared its ugly head one last time this season as the Mustangs padded its lead, with a three-pointer with 3:37 to go, stretching their lead to 87-67, proving to be the dagger.
The Lions mounted one last rally as some big shots from Davis and Whitley helped slice into the Mustang lead, but it was a case of too little too late as Midwestern State ends the Lions' season for the third-straight season with a 92-84 victory.
"This one is hard to take for me personally, because I don't want this to end," Walker, the junior forward said following the game. "These seniors on this team are my best friends and are role models to me, and I didn't want to feel like I let them down. It's incredibly tough, and I wish we could have done more to give them the ending they deserved."
The Lions were scorched all night by the career effort from Kevin Grayer, who finished with 33 points for Midwestern State. Derek Kaster posted 18 points for the Mustangs while Keith Spellman added 14. Corbin Thomas, a first team All-LSC selection, was held in check by Davis all evening, finishing with just seven points and four rebounds.
With that, A&M-Commerce closes out a memorable season which saw a handful of highlights along the way. Even more importantly are the handful of Lions who will return next season, whose thought process was summed up by Devondrick Walker.
"Next season starts now," Walker said. "We worked way too hard and were too talented a team to be an eight-seed. That's not going to happen next year."