NACOGDOCHES – Saturday afternoon at Stephen F. Austin, the Bearkat men’s basketball team put an exclamation mark on a conference championship regular season with a 68-57 win over the Lumberjacks.
The win in Nacogdoches was the first for the Bearkats since the 2011 season and the first season sweep of SFA since the 2010 Southland Championship season. The win also eliminated SFA, who had won four of the last five Southland Conference Tournament titles, from a berth in next week’s tournament in Katy.
Josh Delaney led the way for the Bearkats (21-10, 16-2 SLC), scoring 19 points on 5-for-8 from the 3-point line. The senior guard also added three assists and three steals.
Delaney was joined by Kai Mitchell and Marcus Harris who also reached double figures. Mitchell scored 12 points (10 in the first half) and added nine boards. Harris chipped in 10 points on a perfect 4-for-4 night from the charity stripe.
Cameron Delaney only connected on one of his four 3-point attempts but he did an excellent job playmaking for others leading the way in assist with five.
Shannon Bogues led SFA (14-16, 7-11 SLC) with 17 points, while John Comeaux had 12 of his 13 points in the opening half.
The rebounding margin leaned heavily in favor of SHSU (42-28) and that strength on the glass helped close out defensive possessions or extend their own offensive possessions. The Bearkats used their tenacity inside to come up with 18 points in the paint compared to only six from the Lumberjacks and 14 second chance points compared to seven by their opponent.
The Bearkats struggled with their shot in the first half shooting only 3-for-11 from behind the arc, however the second half was a different story. The team nailed eight of their 17 3’s in the second half.
“I was proud of the way we came out and played there in the first half,” said head coach Jason Hooten. “We weren’t’ getting the 3’s to fall, but we were doing a good job of getting it inside and that’s why we lead at the break.”
The second half started exactly how Hooten wanted. Albert Almanza hit a 3-point basket and Josh Delaney followed with one a minute later to get the lead to 10. Delaney, as it turned out, was just getting started.
The senior connected on two more over the next two minutes to cap a 17-0 run for Sam Houston.
SFA, with Southland Tournament hopes on the line, fought back into the game. They responded with an 8-0 and twice cut the Bearkats lead to six. Both times the Kats responded. First, Zach Nutall hit a 3-pointer to get the lead back to nine. With 1:48, SFA once again cut the lead to six, but Marcus Harris hit a triple to answer right back and essentially put the game away.
The Bearkats will also be the No. 1 seed in the Southland Tournament in Katy in two weeks. The Bearkats will receive a double bye in the tournament and will open play on March 15 at 5 p.m. at the Merrell Center. Tickets are available for purchase from the Bearkat Ticket office at gobearkats.com/tickets.