KATY, Texas (AP) - Walt Harris scored a team-high 15 points and sank three free throws in the final 33 seconds Thursday to lead Stephen F. Austin to a 60-53 win over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in the semifinals of the State Farm Southland Conference Basketball Tournament. The win moves the Lumberjacks into the tournament championship game for the second straight season.
With the victory, SFA improves to 23-8 on the year and 12-11 all-time in Southland Tournament games, the first time the `Jacks have moved above .500 in tournament play since joining the league in 1987. SFA head coach Danny Kaspar picked up his 400th career win and will coach his team in the tournament finals Saturday for the fourth time in the last eight years.
The Lumberjacks will take on Sam Houston State Saturday in the 3 p.m. title game that will air nationally on ESPN2. The Bearkats are the Southland regular-season champions and No. 1 seed in the tournament. They knocked off No. 4 Southeastern Louisiana with an 88-85 win in the late semifinal game.
Thursday, SFA held the upper hand nearly wire-to-wire. Southeastern's only lead was a one-point margin in the first half that lasted for only one possession. Despite hardly trailing, the `Jacks were unable to widen their advantage, as their largest lead of the game was 11 early in the second half.
The lead was down to three (50-47) with 4:18 to play in the game, when Jereal Scott rebounded a missed 3-pointer and put it back in to give his team a five-point cushion. The Islanders responded with layup by Demond Watt at the other end, but SFA regained its five-point lead on another lay-in by Scott, this one off a feed under the basket by point guard Denzel Barnes.
A&M-Corpus leading scorer Kevin Palmer answered with a jumper to trim the lead back to three with 3:02 to play. At the other end, junior forward Mark Gomillia crashed the boards on a missed jumper for a big offensive rebound, then kicked it out to Barnes, who drained an open 3-pointer - his second of the game.
Palmer was able to answer the call one last time with a layup on the Islanders' next possession to make it a 57-53 SFA lead with 2:09 to play. Palmer was fouled on the play, giving him the chance to make it a three-point game, but his free throw missed and bounced into Scott's waiting hands, and A&M-Corpus would not score another point. Harris' three free throws down the stretch iced the game.
Glynn, Scott and Eddie Williams joined Harris in double digits. Glynn and Scott put up 11 apiece, and Scott pulled down seven rebounds, while Williams finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds for his third career double-double.
Barnes finished with six points and six assists. Gomillia came off the bench for four points, three rebounds and a blocked shot, and Orren Tims finished with three points and an assist.
Justin Reynolds scored 17 points to lead the Islanders. Palmer had just four points on 1-of-11 shooting at halftime and finished with 15 points on a 6-for-22 effort from the field. Demond Watt added 10 points and 10 rebounds.
SFA, playing its second game in just over 24 hours, used only seven players total in the contest. The `Jacks are playing shorthanded, due to injuries to starting point guard Eric Bell and backup center Will Reinke. Williams played all 40 minutes - the eighth time this season he's done so - and Glynn, Harris and Barnes each logged more than 30 minutes.
The win is SFA's second straight in the Southland semifinals against A&M-Corpus and the sixth straight, overall, in the series with the Islanders. The `Jacks took a 63-60 verdict in last year's semifinals meeting.
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