AC News Service
So it all comes down to this. An entire season's worth of work and dreams, hinging on a single game. The outcome will determine which team plays another game and which team packs its bags and begins plans for next season.
The Angelina College Roadrunner basketball team will host Coastal Bend College in a "play-in" game Monday night at Shands Gymnasium. The winner will become the 12th seed in the men's Region XIV tournament beginning Wednesday at Tyler Junior College in Tyler. Coastal Bend, the conference orphans, is not set to officially join Region XIV until next season; however, they are eligible for the post season should the Cougars prevail on Monday.
This will mark the second straight season the same two teams have played with the same playoff berth on the line. AC won last season's game, but this year's version of Coastal Bend's Cougars has proven more formidable a foe: The Coogs knocked off two of the Roadrunners' conference rivals, San Jacinto and Lee College, earlier this season.
The Roadrunners have experienced the ups and downs expected of a team featuring a single sophomore. AC's overall record of 13-17 isn't indicative of the number of close games they lost, but this stat is: The Roadrunners averaged 75.2 points per game all season. Opponents averaged exactly 75 points. The 'Runners were victims of buzzer beaters and overtime losses, of blown leads late in the games, and of a measure of inconsistency preventing the team from putting together win streaks.
Still, this AC team is dangerous, capable of beating any team – a factor not lost on the conference's coaches. Saturday, the Roadrunners shot down Lon Morris College 86-78 behind freshman Jaylen Daniel's 35 points. Sophomore Mike Myers scored 18 points and pulled in 10 rebounds against the Bearcats; Myers has hit for 15 double-doubles on the season, and is just percentage points away in rebounding from averaging those numbers for the entire year. And freshman point guard Victor Mbachu, who's suffered his share of struggles in learning to run the offense, put together one of his best games of the season, scoring seven points while dishing out eight assists and turning the ball over just twice. Andre Crear returned from an injury-plagued past two weeks to score 15 points off the bench, and LaDerrien Jackson nailed a trio of three pointers to tally 11 points. The 6'10" Frank Snow pulled down nine rebounds and blocked two Bearcat shots.
That type of team effort is exactly what makes the 'Runners both unpredictable and dangerous. When they can avoid those two- and three-minute lapses so devastating in some of the close losses, these players match up well with any team.
AC head coach Todd Neighbors has spent the past month reminding his crew that when it comes to March Madness and a conference tournament, it's not always the best team emerging as the winner; it's the team playing the best at the time.The Roadrunners are hoping to take Saturday's momentum into Monday night and beyond, proving they're the team playing the best basketball once the tournament tips off on Wednesday.