KATY - For the second time in as many years, the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi men's basketball team sailed into the semifinals of the State Farm Southland Conference Tournament with an impressive first round win only to come up just short in the semifinals to Stephen F. Austin. The Lumberjacks handed the Islanders a 60-53 loss on Thursday night at the Merrell Center.
With the loss, the Islanders finish the season with a 17-15 record. They have now reached at least the semifinals in their three trips to the conference tournament including a title in 2006-07. The Lumberjacks moved to 23-8 and are a game away from repeating as tournament champions. They have won six straight against the Islanders including a 63-60 decision in the semis last season.
"Looking at the stat sheet, I thought we did a lot of things well," said Islander head coach Perry Clark. "They did a good job on Kevin (Palmer). We count on him to do so much and he's carries us so far. In a game like this when they are able to take him away it affects us."
SFA led much of the contest as the game had just two lead changes. Shamar Coombs gave the Islanders a brief lead at 11-10 with 13:02 left, however Oren Timms' bucket 30 seconds later returned the lead to the 'Jacks and started an 8-0 run. Eddie Williams had two threes in the spurt including a banked trey as the shot clock expired.
Trailing 18-11, Demond Watt and Justin Reynolds scored back-to-back buckets in the paint. Reynolds then hit the second of two foul shots to make it an 18-16 game with 8:03 left. Jordan Glynn would convert a three-point a play moments later to make it 21-16.
Filip Toncinic pulled A&M-Corpus Christi to within a pair with 2:32 remaining with a three-point basket.
SFA scored the final six points of the half to lead 33-25 at the intermission.
Walt Harris extended the Islander deficit to 11 as he drained a three to open the second half.
Palmer answered trying to bring his team back. Palmer, who was 1-of-11 in the first half, scored four straight points and Watt added a dunk two minutes in to make it a 5-point game.
SFA would eventually build its lead back to 10 points as Harris connected a three with 10:35 left.
A&M-Corpus Christi refused to go away. Palmer converted a put back and Reynolds hit his second three of the game to make it a 47-42 contest with 8:11 left.
After a free throw by SFA, Reynolds jumper in the lane made it a four-point game. The Islanders had a chance to get even closer but Palmer missed a three from the corner.
Jereal Scott's second-chance basket at the 4:14 mark extended it back to 52-47. Watt made it a three-point game with a lay in with less than four minutes to play. Following a jumped on the baseline by Palmer, Denzel Barnes hit a back-breaking three at the top of the key.
Down six, Palmer drove to the basket and was fouled making a lay in. Palmer missed converting the three-point play leaving the Islanders down four, 57-53. Still down four with under a minute, Palmer tried a three from the top of the key but it rimmed out.
Walt Harris hit a pair of foul shots with 33 seconds left to make it a 6-point game.
While the Islanders tied their season-low for turnovers committing just eight, the Islanders struggled at the foul line finishing 6-of-14. SFA was 10-of-13 for the game. A&M-Corpus Christi shot 44.9% from the floor after 50% in the second half. The 'Jacks finished the game by hitting 47.8% from the floor.
Reynolds led the Islanders with 17 points on 7-of-11 shooting and had three steals. Palmer finished with 15 points despite finishing 6-of-22 from the floor. He matched his career-best with nine rebounds. The senior ended his career with 1,230 points which is fourth all-time. Watt posted his team-best eighth double-double of the season with 10 points and 10 boards.
SFA had four players in double digits with Harris netting a team-best 15. Glynn and Scott each added 11, while Eddie Williams had a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.