LEVELLAND — Rivaldo Soares recorded 18 points and six rebounds, including the game-winning free throw in the final seconds as the South Plains College men's basketball team outlasted #11 Western Texas College 62-61 Saturday at the Texan Dome.
South Plains improves to 7-4 on the year and 2-0 in the Western Junior College Athletic Conference as they close out their final contest before the Christmas break. The Texans will return to the hardwood when they travel to Phoenix, Arizona for the 2019 Fiesta Bowl Junior College Shootout Dec. 27-29.
"If you want to be relevant at the end of the year you have to win your home games," South Plains head coach Steve Green said. "Rivaldo was pretty good tonight coming off the dribble but had some trouble shooting the three. He was having success off the dribble and pulling up and shooting, and we ran a couple of things specifically for him late in the game."
Deadlocked at 50 apiece with 4:52 to play, South Plains would use a 6-0 run sparked by a Jarrel Rosser' tip-in off a missed 3 from Benjamin Bayela to put South Plains up 52-0. Junior Farquhar would put the Texans up six, 56-50 with a layup off the glass with just over three minutes left.
Western Texas answered back with a 9-2 run and would take the lead 59-58 with just over a minute left on a pair of free throws from Arseniy Semenov. Soares would then get hacked on the other end and get to the line, making one of two to tie the game at 59 all with 58 ticks remaining.
Following a defensive stand, South Plains would get back to the line with 33 seconds to go when Jevonnie Scott was fouled by Western's Semenov. The big man would come up clutch, knocking down both free throws to give South Plains a 61-59 advantage. On Western's next possession, CJ Smith shot an uncontrolled 3 off one foot and was able to draw a foul on Scott and get three shots at the charity stripe.
Smith missed the front end but was able to make the next two to once again deadlock the game at 61 all with 10 seconds on the clock. The Texans would put the ball in the hands of Soares, who pump-faked from a foot inside the 3-point line, getting Darius Mickens to react and foul the 6-foot-5 freshman from Boston with a chance to ice the game with 1.4 seconds left.
Soares would hit the first of two, and following a timeout from Green, intentionally missed the second as Semenov took the rebound and hurled it to the other end of the floor, but it wouldn't come close as the Texans protected their home floor to remain unbeaten in league play.
"The score would indicate we defended them pretty well, but we have to continue to get better," Green said. "We played well in the first half because we didn't foul, but the second half we started fouling and we have to quit doing stuff like that."
Scott finished with 11 points and three rebounds, including a pair of 3s in the first half as the Texans shot 35.3 percent in the game. Bayela tallied eight points and snagged six boards while Bernard Kouma had seven points and five rebounds and Farquhar finished with six points and three assists.
"They (Bernard and Jevonnie) both had good weeks of practice, and we have lit a fire under their rear ends," Green said. "They both responded, and obviously we have a long way to go and a lot of fires to ignite, but they both tried extremely hard."
Western's Tafari Simms led all scorers with 19 points and seven rebounds, knocking down 7 of 14 shots from the field. Smith finished with 15 points and fours assists for Western while Semenov had nine points as Western shot 37.5 percent from the floor and 28.6 percent from distance.