LSCPA Basketball falls to Tyler 70-63 in NJCAA Region 14 Tournament
JACKSONVILLE – Lamar State College Port Arthur wore the tag “underdog” as well as anyone ever has in the history of the Seahawks basketball program.
On Thursday night, they proved they were so much more than the team that was not supposed to win.
LSCPA ended its season with a 70-63 loss to Tyler Junior College at the NJCAA Region 13 men’s basketball tournament. And while the Seahawks finished the 2017-18 campaign at 15-17, the worst season record of the Lance Madison era, this group of players may well represent the best Madison has coached since his arrival in 2012.
“We faced a lot of adversity throughout the season and these guys worked together and rose up to become competitors,” Coach Madison said. “They got closer as they faced adversity, they battled to the end. This is my sixth team at Lamar State and they created a bond that I’ll always remember.”
The Seahawks faced the flood waters of Hurricane Harvey at the start of the 17-18 season and battled to return to something normal as they tried to figure out how to operate as a team. Only Travious Grubbs, a sophomore from Silsbee, came to the floor as a second-year Seahawk.
Slowly over the first three months of the season, the Seahawks developed, grew as players, grew as contenders and grew together as a team.
Finally, on Valentine’s Day, their brotherhood off the court began to show on the court with wins. Entering this week’s regional tournament, the Hawks had won five out of six. Four of those victories avenged league losses earlier in the year. No one wanted to face the Hawks, the hottest team with the greatest momentum coming into the tournament.
“They had to overcome a lot,” Madison said. “They’re hard workers, they embraced core values and they like each other.
“We were a force to reckon with at the end of the year.”
The Seahawks took an overtime win against Navarro College earlier this week in the first round of the conference tournament. As usual, the Hawks were considered the underdog in that one, coming in as the No. 10 seed against the No. 7-ranked Bulldogs.
Thursday, the familiar scenario followed the Seahawks into their quarterfinal game against the No. 2-seeded Tyler Junior College Apaches.
The Apaches, who reach the semifinals with a 24-6 season mark, amassed a double-figure lead over the first 20 minutes, taking a 38-27 advantage to the break.
“We were a little nervous to start the game,” Madison said. “Their size can be intimidating and it took us some time to adjust.”
Over the past several weeks, the Seahawks proved that no deficit was enough to hold them at bay and once again, LSCPA responded with a stifling defense that opened up offensive opportunity down the stretch.
With 4:12 left on the game clock, Stefan Radosavljevic laid in a bucket to cut the Tyler lead to just a point after the Apaches had gone out front by as many as 13 early on.
“We were very aggressive coming into the second half,” Madison said. “We started powering through their big guys, drawing fouls and hitting our free throws. There was a difference in how we looked after the half.”
Devin Ellis, a redshirt freshman out of Beaumont Central High School, fought underneath the basket, drawing fouls and going to the line to help the Hawks battle back. He finished with 12 points, hitting 8 of 10 from the free throw line.
“Devin is the most improved player in this conference,” Madison said.
In the final moments, though, the Seahawks magic diminished and the Apaches escaped with a trip to the quarterfinals Friday. They will face the winner of Thursday night’s quarterfinal game between San Jacinto College and Panola Junior College.
“We just ran out of gas there at the end,” Madison explained. “We didn’t have Tevin (Baker, who injured an ankle Tuesday) and so we were working with a different rotation. With him out, we were without one of our better shooters and that was tough.”
Freshman guard Alex Williams finished as the top scorer for the Seahawks, hitting for 14 points, including four 3-pointers, while Matej Gaspert came off the bench to score 12 points with nine rebounds. Grubbs did his work on the boards, grabbing a career-best 16 rebounds.
“We accomplished a lot at the end of the year,” Madison said of his Seahawks. “They did everything we asked them to do to try to reach their potential. They did a hell of a job fighting, tonight and this season.
“I’m really proud of this group of guys.”