Northwestern State Pulls Upset of Top-Seed SFA to Win Southland - Mar 17, 2013
KATY, Texas For a second consecutive night, the nations highest-scoring offense came through defensively, and in the process swiped an NCAA tournament bid from their rival.
Northwestern State made several clutch plays on the defensive side of the ball in the closing minutes, including a game-clinching steal from Dequan Hicks (6'7''-F) that gave the Demons a 68-66 win over top-seeded Stephen F. Austin in the championship game of the Southland Conference tournament Saturday night, returning to the Big Dance for the first time since their dramatic run in 2006.
It feels good to go dancing, said Demons guard Shamir Davis (6'0''-PG-91), who was selected as the tournaments most outstanding player. I cant wait see where we go on Sunday night.
Sunday night became must-see TV for Northwestern State (23-8) when Hicks cut in front of SFA guard Antonio Bostic and intercepted a pass with two seconds left, while also having the presence to throw the ball in the air to run out the clock and begin the celebration for a Demons team that withstood a series of surges by the Lumberjacks (27-4) after taking a 54-45 lead at the 9:39 mark of the second half.
It was one of those right-place-at-the-right-time moments, said Hicks, who finished with 13 points. I just made a read and went for it. If I made it, I made it, which I was fortunate enough to make.
Hicks also played a key role in containing Lumberjacks star forward Taylor Smith (6'6''-F). The Southland Conference Player of the Year finished with 16 points and 14 rebounds, yet was also constantly harassed by the swarm of post players Northwestern State coach Mike McConathy threw at him.
The benefit of a deep bench helped contribute to the game plan of slowing down Smith, as 10 Demons played at least 12 minutes, allowing a series of fresh bodies to begin wearing down a Stephen F. Austin team that had relied on a seven-man rotation for much of the season.
It was 3-4 players (at a time), Smith said. I also made some costly turnovers. I didnt really play to my potential in the second half than I was capable of, and I just want to apologize to my team for that.
An inability to cash in at the free throw line also doomed the Lumberjacks, who have a guaranteed spot in the NIT should they not receive an at-large berth in the NCAA tournament. Stephen F. Austin missed 14 of 23 from the charity stripe, including a 9-of-14 effort in the second half.
SFA coach Danny Kaspar felt the difference in the game was the play of Davis, who had 19 points.
We had some difficulties controlling (Davis), he said. He brought a lot of offense to a lot of other players.
Davis was joined on the all-tournament team by Hicks, Smith and SFA guard Desmond Haymon (6'3''-G) along with Sam Houston State guard Darius Gatson (5'11''-PG).
Everybody in the stands in the three times we played got everything they paid for to see Stephen F. Austin and Northwestern State, McConathy said.
Southland Conf. Tournament Final: Stephen F. Austin - Northwestern St. 66-68 Southland Conf. Tournament Semifinals: Stephen F. Austin - Southeastern La. 68-57 Northwestern St. - Sam Houston St. 55-52
All-Southland Conf. 1st Team 2012-2013
Player of the Year:Taylor Smith (6'6''-F) of SF Austin All-Tournament MVP:Shamir Davis (6'0''-PG-91) of Northwestern St. Defensive Player of the Year:Taylor Smith (6'6''-F) of SF Austin Freshman of the Year:Jalan West (5'10''-PG-93) of Northwestern St. Newcomer of the Year:Dequan Hicks (6'7''-F) of Northwestern St. Coach of the Year:Danny Kaspar of SF Austin
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