The SFA Lumberjacks men's basketball team has advanced to the NCAA Tournament.
SFA beat Sam Houston State, 69-47, in the final of the SLC Tournament.
SFA will find out their seeding and who they will open tournament play against on Sunday.
The win was also the 28th straight for the Lumberjacks (31-2), thenation’s second-longest streak in the nation. Only undefeated Wichita State has a longer run.
“We couldn’t let this opportunity fade away from us,” said all-tournamentselection Desmond Haymon, one of six players on the SFA roster which lost to Northwestern in last year’s tournament finale. “The focus the team had stayed there the whole night.”
SFA went undefeated in 18 Southland Conference games en route toearning the school’s second tournament championship and now awaits its destination when the NCAA tournament bracket is formally announced Sunday at 5 p.m., CT, on CBS.
Lumberjacks coach Brad Underwood felt overjoyed about being ableto not only represent SFA, but also the conference, as his first season at the helm still has him and the school on the biggest stage in college sports.
“For us to be on the national stage and represent who we are andwhat we’re about....that means the world,” he said. “I’ve said it all along: we play for the name on our front, not on the back, and we take great, great pride in being able to play for Stephen F. Austin State University.
“This is a good league. It’s got great teams. It’s got great players,”Underwood added.
Tournament most valuable player Thomas Walkup scored 19 points andadded five rebounds and four assists for the Lumberjacks, who led just 35-32 with 18:12 remaining before going on their decisive run, which put them up 56-37 with 7:08 left after a basket from Conner Brooks.
Sam Houston (23-10) hit just 2 of 8 shots and committed six turnoversduring the pivotal run and the Bearkats were held to only 38.6 percent shooting on the night.
“You’ve got to give them credit,” Bearkats coach Jason Hooten said.“They defended us pretty well. I thought early in the game, we got some pretty good shots that didn’t go in. That happens … when you don’t make shots, you get a little frustrated, but we probably carried that over on the defensive end.”
The Bearkats were up 22-17 following Terrance Motley’s jumper atthe 6:45 mark of the first half, but the Lumberjacks responded with a 14-2 run that was highlighted by a pair of treys from Deshaunt Walker, the latter which gave SFA a 31-24 lead with 3:17 before intermission. Sam Houston would get within 31-28, but Walkup’slayup with 31 seconds remaining allowed the Lumberjacks to take a 33-28 cushion into the locker room.
Despite the loss, the Bearkats stand a very good chance to playin either the National Invitational Tournament or the College Basketball Invitational. A selection to either would give Sam Houston its third postseason trip in school annuals.
“We deserve it,” said Hooten. “We’ve won 23 games, played a greatschedule and I think we’ll get that opportunity.”
Joining Walkup and Haymon on the all-tournament team were Sam HoustonState’s Jabari Peters and Kaheem Ransom along with Northwestern State’s Jalan West.