HUNTSVILLE – Championships never come easy, and there was nothing easy about how the Sam Houston State Bearkats had to clinch theirs on Saturday night.
Sam Houston (19-9, 14-1 SLC) led 90-65 with just 5:17 to play before Houston Baptist (10-15, 6-8 SLC) mounted an unfathomable comeback, outscoring SHSU 30-5 to close out regulation and force overtime.
There the Kats overcame a six-point deficit to outlast the Huskies 119-113 in double OT, clinching at least a share of the program’s fourth Southland Conference championship and securing the No. 1 overall seed in next month’s Southland Conference Tournament in Katy.
With one more win in their final three games, or losses by both Abilene Christian and New Orleans, the Kats would claim the league crown outright.
Sam Houston hit 41 of its 70 shots from the floor (58.6 percent) and tied a school record with 18 made 3-point baskets, but it still took everything it had to hold off a red-hot HBU team who came in having won five of its last six games.
Both Josh and Cameron Delaney tied their career highs with 30 and 25 points apiece, respectively, with Josh pumping in 13 of his in the two overtimes. Between them they knocked down 11 of the team’s 18 longballs and had 13 total assists.
Marcus Harris turned in 18 points and Chad Bowie had 13 off the bench, while Bubba Furlong had eight points and eight rebounds in 18 minutes of work, giving SHSU a huge boost in the second overtime after Kai Mitchell fouled out.
For HBU, Oliver Lynch-Daniels led the way with 24 points off the bench, spearheading a group of Husky reserves that outscored the Kats by a 49-37 margin. The SLC’s leading scorer, Ian DuBose, also had 23 points and a pair of triples, including one in the final 10 seconds of regulation that tied the game up at 95-95.
The Kats led comfortably by a 51-32 margin at the halfway point of the game after draining nine triples and hitting better than 63 percent from the floor, led by 16 points from Harris and 10 more from Josh Delaney.
Things never felt in question in the second half with a 12-4 run capped by a jumper from Zaqwaun Matthews building the lead to its peak at 90-65 with just over five minutes to go.
But that would be the final field goal of regulation for SHSU, as a pair of foul shots from Ty Dalton followed igniting the Huskies to score each of the game’s next 21 points in less than three minutes, eventually pulling to within a bucket on a jumper by Lynch-Daniels with just 41 seconds to play.
Free throws by Chad Bowie and Cameron Delaney managed to keep the Kats in front, but not until DuBose’s triple from the right corner with eight seconds to play knotted it at 95-95. HBU had a chance at the buzzer to win it after a Bearkat turnover, but a wide-open three by Lynch-Daniels was off the mark.
The Husky momentum carried over into the first overtime as HBU scored the first six points of the period before Cameron Delaney finally took the lid off the basket with a trifecta. Josh Delaney followed with triples on each of the next two offensive possessions, but it was a pair of foul shots with less than 25 seconds to play that managed to send the game to a second extra period.
SHSU got a boost from Furlong in the second overtime as he scored the team’s first bucket, and later foud Bowie on a breakaway for an easy layup that gave the Kats a 115-112 lead. That was part of a 9-2 run that eventually turned out to be enough to seal the win.
The Kats will now try to secure the outright league crown on Wednesday when they travel to the Crescent City for a meeting with New Orleans. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. at Lakefront Arena and will be aired on ESPN3.