KATY A five-minute cold spell where the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi men's basketball team managed one point proved to be to much to overcome as the Islanders lost a hard-fought battle with top-seed Stephen F. Austin, 63-60, on Friday night in the semifinals of the 2009 State Farm Southland Conference Tournament at the Merrell Center in Katy, Texas.
Kevin Palmer's desperation three-point attempt to force overtime bounced off the rim as the horn sounded.
With the loss, the Islanders drop to 18-15 on the season and will be awaiting word on a possible bid to one of several postseason tournaments. Stephen F. Austin improves to 23-7 on the season and will face UTSA in Sunday's final.
"I thought we showed a lot of maturity for being in this situation for the first time," said Islander head coach Perry Clark. "They were a veteran team picked to win the league and their experience showed down the stretch.
"We were picked to finish last or next to last. I am so proud of how these guys developed to get here and have a chance at reaching the championship game."
The Islanders took a six-point lead, 48-42, on a tip by Tim Green with 13:09 remaining. Green would make it a seven-point lead with 1-of-2 free throws with 11:17 to go.
Stephen F. Austin answered with seven straight points to tie the game at 49. After buckets by Eddie Williams and Benson Akpan made it a 49-46 game with under nine minutes left.
Matt Kingsley, who led all players with 26 points, tied the game at 49 when he converted a three-point play.
A&M-Corpus Christi, which shot 50% in the first half but 28% in the second, broke out of the cold spell with a pair of free throws by Kevin Palmer, who struggled with a foot injury. Demond Watt then converted a fast-break basket to make 53-49 with just over six minutes left. Palmer extended the lead to six with a pair of free throws.
A pair of foul shots by Kingsley began an 8-0 run to give the Jacks a 57-55 advantage. After a foul shot by Williams, Alexander converted a three-point play to tie the game at 55. Kingsley's jumper with 3:33 gave SFA the lead for good.
The Islanders pulled to within one on three occasions, but could not regain the lead.
In the first half, Demond Watt and Shamar Coombs kept the Islanders in the ballgame as Stephen F. Austin went on a an early run to take a 16-9 lead less than seven minutes into the half, while Palmer didn't score until the 4:02 mark of the first half. He would have seven points from that point on and finished with 13.
Watt would go a perfect 5-of-5 from the field in the first half with a pair of free throws. He led all players with six rebounds. Meanwhile, Coombs was 3-of-3 from three-point range as the Islanders were 4-of-5. He finished with a career-high 19 points.
SFA took the early advantage breaking a 7-7 deadlock with a 7-0 run. After Kingsley, who had a 11 first half points, hit a jumper, Alexander drained a three-pointer and then converted a pair of free throws with 14:13 to in the half. Alexander had nine of his 14 points in the first half.
After the teams traded buckets, A&M-Corpus Christi went on a 13-4 run to regain the lead at 22-20. Watt began the run with a putback, and Justin Reynolds converted a three-from the top of the key to make it an 18-14 game. A dunk by Watt, who finished with his second double-double of the season with 16 points and 11 boards, made it 18-16.
Trailing 20-16, Coombs drained a three, while Watt gave the Islanders back the lead, 22-20, when he converted a three-point play.
Neither team led by more than three the rest of the half with the Islanders leading 36-34 at the break.