LEVELLAND — Paul Person scored a season-high 22 points as the South Plains College men's basketball team outlasted New Mexico Junior College 61-53 Monday night at the Texan Dome.
South Plains shot 41.7 percent from 3 and forced New Mexico to shoot just 34 percent from the floor as they improved to 11-6 on the season and 2-2 in the WJCAC. The Texans will be off on Thursday before returning to their home court on Monday night when they host Midland College at 7:30 p.m. on Hockley County School Employees Credit Union Night.
"We feel very fortunate to have won," said South Plains head coach Steve Green, who is just one win shy of 500 in Levelland. "We have a hard time getting the ball in the basket, but you play the game to win, and we won, so I guess we can rejoice in that. We didn't talk about them being in first – it is all about us, we have to win games."
Leading 37-34 with just over 12 minutes to play, the Texans ripped off a 9-2 run in just over two minutes to take a 46-36 lead on a Person' layup with 9:15 to go. The Thunderbirds would respond with an 8-0 run as Terence Lewis brought New Mexico within two, 46-44 with a layup with 6:30 left.
Leading 49-46 with just under three minutes remaining, Person connected on the first of a pair of 3s to put the Texans up 52-46. Person would find the bottom of the net again from distance, this time from the right wing with 1:25 left to give South Plains a 55-48 advantage. Person would ice the game with a pair of free throws with under 30 seconds to play as the Texans held off New Mexico in the final seconds.
"We needed this," Person said. "I'm just happy we came out and played and didn't give up down the stretch and were able to win this one. I was in attack mode and trying to put the team on my back and trying to win a game. I was really just trying to get my team involved and help everyone make plays."
Person finished a perfect 8-for-8 from the floor and was 3-for-3 from the perimeter over 21 minutes. Yuot Gai chipped in 11 points and snagged eight rebounds, six on the defensive end, finishing 4 of 7 from the field and was 3-for-3 from the free throw line. Junior Farquhar netted nine points and six rebounds for the Texans while Benjamin Bayela had nine points and five boards.
Mareng Gatkuoth led the Thunderbirds (14-5, 3-1) with 15 points on 6 of 13 shooting and was 3 of 10 from distance. Antonio Brady netted 13 points and three rebounds while Terrence Lewis chipped in 10 points and snagged 13 boards.