LEVELLAND, Texas - The South Plains College Texans have punched their ticket to next week's Region V tournament by way of a 61-54 victory over New Mexico Junior College Thursday night at the Texan Dome. The two teams finish tied for fourth, but South Plains (17-12, 6-8) advances based on the tie breaker.
Since the Texans split the season series with New Mexico JC (19-9, 6-8), their January 20 victory over Odessa becomes very important as the Wranglers are the highest seed either of the two teams defeated.
Things did not look very promising in the first half as New Mexico JC led by as many as 10 points on multiple occasions. With under one minute to play before intermission and down 31-21, South Plains got a couple of free throws from Brandon Thompson and then a big three pointer from Malcolm Miller with 17 seconds remaining to narrow their deficit to five points.
The Texans were able to tie the game, 40-40, 91/2 minutes into the second half when Stanton Kidd knocked down two free throws. Deshaunt Walker then gave SPC their first lead since the opening minutes when he stole the ball from New Mexico's Arthur Bernardi and took it down the court to convert the field goal.
New Mexico temporarily took a 45-42 lead, but Greg Gainey, Malcolm Miller, Thompson, and Stanton Kidd each scored unanswered baskets and Kidd completed a 10-0 run to give SPC the lead for good by hitting two free throws, giving SPC a 52-45 lead with 4:03 left on the clock.
With less than a minute remaining the Texans held a four point advantage and New Mexico was forced to start sending SPC shooters to the line. The Texans were clutch at the line, making 9-of-10 in the final minute.
Malcolm Miller led all scorers with a game high of 21 points on 8-of-12 shooting. Greg Gainey added 13 and also had a huge block at the 14:16 mark of the second half that helped shift the momentum the Texans way. Brandon Thompson chipped in with 12 points, while Stanton Kidd finished with 10.
The Texans will face the champions from the North Texas Junior College Athletic Conference (NTJCAC) on Friday, March 4 at 7 p.m. in the opening round of the tournament. The game will be broadcasted live by Panhandle Sports Broadcasting and can be watched at www.psblive.com.