The Stephen F. Austin Lumberjack basketball team is in an unusual position going into this year's Southland Conference Tournament. For the first time in four years, they won't be going in as the No. 1 seed.
After a tight race to the finish of the conference season, SFA was handed the No. 3 seed going into the tournament.
With the approach that everything happens for a reason, the ‘Jacks believe they're capable of beating anyone this tournament run no matter what the rankings say. SFA is not your average No. 3 seed entering this year's conference tournament.
“We're definitely coming in with a chip on our shoulder and wanting to beat everybody,” said junior Leon Gilmore.
That is what sets them apart. Despite being the No. 3 seed, the ‘Jacks have beaten every team in their conference this season.
“There’s not one team we don't feel like we can't beat and I like my team. I believe in them,” said head coach Kyle Keller. “I think in a one-game opportunity, which is what you have in the tournament, I would take my team over anybody we have the opportunity to play.”
“The seeding is just numbers. Anybody can be beaten any day, including us,” said senior Dallas Cameron. “Everything happens for a reason. We feel like we're in the spot we were supposed to be. We're a new team. We had our growing pains and we feel like those growing pains have helped us get to this point right here.”
The four-year streak of winning conference may have been broken, but the tournament has come just in time to serve as a dose of redemption.
“We'll play teams that we've beaten and we'll play teams that we lost to. It's our chance to get them back and let them know who really owns this conference,” said junior Ty Charles.
Even though SFA didn’t come out with the conference title, their main goal is still ahead of them. That goal is making it to the NCAA Tournament after a one-game elimination season.
“That's what this program is based on and anything less than going to the NCAA tournament would be a disappointment for our program,” said Keller. “Our fans and our administration expect us to go to the NCAA tournament.”
“Keller tells us every day there's no pressure. He tells us the pressure's on them. Everybody looks at us as their biggest game. We know that and we go in everyday with a positive mindset. We just think about winning,” said Gilmore.
The Lumberjacks first game will be on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. They’ll play the winner of Central Arkansas and Sam Houston in the quarterfinals.
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