By Lance Lahnert
One word describes West Texas A&M’s play Sunday night.
As in Sweet 16 bound.
Record-setting West Texas will play for its first trip to the Elite Eight in 20 years thanks to an impressive game Sunday against a familiar foe in Texas A&M-Commerce during the semifinals of the 2018 Division II South Central Region at the First United Bank Center.
The Buffs, playing fellow Lone Star Conference team Commerce for the third time in 14 days, left no doubt in this one thanks to a dominating second half settling on a 93-70 win before 1,194 fans in the First United Bank Center.
WT cranked out a 60-point second half turning a game that could go either way at halftime into a 27-point lead with 4:04 to play.
“Let’s give credit where credit is due and West Texas was prepared and did a lot of things that were tough on us both offensively and defensively,” said Commerce head coach Jaret von Rosenberg, his Lions finishing 22-9 and with a win over WT 14 days ago in Commerce. “They just made more plays then we did.”
The win pushed WT’s record to 30-3, the 30 victories the most ever in school history and set up an LSC showdown at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the South Central Region championship game against University of Texas Permian-Basin.
UTPB won its semifinal game Sunday in an instant classic, defeating Region in four overtimes 130-126. UTPB senior and LSC player of the year Daeshon Francis scored 43 points, the most point ever scored by a player in the history of the First United Bank Center which opened in 2002.
Tuesday night WT and UTPB will meet for fourth time this season, the Buffs holding a 2-1 edge in the previous three games.
“UTPB is very good and we know what each other is going to do,” said WT junior Ryan Quaid who teammed with freshman Gaige Prim inside to beat up Commerce time and again. “It’s going to be physical we know that much for sure.”
WT advanced to the regional finals by putting together an impressive opening 10 minutes of the second half which saw the Buffs five-point halftime lead balloon to a 62-46 lead with 11:18 remaining.
WT went on a 15-3 run ignited by the play of guard David Chavlovich and the Quaid-Prim combo.
Chavlovich, who became the all-time leading scorer in LSC history Saturday night in a win over Colorado School of the Mines, was held scoreless in the first half.
But Chavlovich finished with 16 points opening up the inside for WT players and dished out eight assists.
Quaid and Prim were good to go from start to finish combining for 40 points. Prim scored a career-high 24 points, while Quaid notched his 15th double-double of the year going for 16 points and 11 rebounds.
WT also made Commerce pay for fouling as it earned the one-and-one bonus situation with 13 minutes and 53 seconds remaining in the game.
WT finished 24-of-30 from the line with Chavlovich going 7-of-8 and Gaige 6-of-7.
As if the inside/outside game of Chavlovich and Gaige-Prim didn’t hurt Commerce enough, WT senior guard Jordan Evans busted out a game-high six 3-pointers scoring 18 points, while hustling junior guard Gach Gach produced a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
WT outrebounded Commerce 38-24 and finished with 19 assists and 13 3-ppinters made.
“Commerce is a very good team and we knew that going in,” said WT head coach Tom Brown. “I thought we just did a good job of not having any lengthy lapses against them. I was very pleased with the way we played and these two guys (nodding to Quaid and Prim) worked well together.”
Commerce was led in scoring by Willie Rooks with 20 points, while Reggie Reid added 15.
“WT can go runs,” von Rosenberg said. “I thought there in the second half when they went on their first run and hit a three and we called a timeout I thought we broke up that run. But they had more runs in them and we didn’t make enough stops or shots to withstand those runs. Plus a big key for them was controlling the paint.”
West Texas A&M 93, Texas A&M-Commerce 70
Records: No. 11 West Texas A&M Buffs improves to 30-3. Texas A&M-Commerce ends its tear at 22-9.
Key stat No.1: West Texas advances to the round of 16 for the second consecutive year.
Key stat No. 2: West Texas reaches 30 wins for the first time in school history. Next up: West Texas meets University of Texas Permian-Basin in the South Central Region finals at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the First United Bank Center, Canyon.
Division II men’s basketball
South Central Regional
At First United Bank Center, Canyon
Regis 87, Dallas Baptist 82
Texas Permian-Basin 87, Arkansas Fort Smith 69
West Texas A&M 79, Colorado School of Mines 65
Texas A&M-Commerce 78, Fort Lewis 62
Sunday’s semifinal games
UTPB 130, Regis 124 (4 OT)
Regis;55;37;9;10;8;8; — 124
UT Permian Basin;37;52;9;10;8;14 — 130
R —Brodbeck 34, Little 26, Sienko 26, Nelms 11, McGee 11, Beisty 9, Dawson 7. UTPB — Francis 43, Allen 19, McPherson 19, King, Morris 12, Villa 12, Bryant 11. Records: Regis 27-6. UT Permian Basin 27-5.
^ WT 93, TAMC 70
Texas A&M-Commerce (22-9): Reggie Reid 4-15 6-9 15, Trey Conrod 2-5 2-3 7, Willie Rooks 6-11 4-4 20, Aaron Horne 2-3 2-2 7, Powell-Williams 3-5 0-1 6, Srdan Budimir 1-2 0-0 3, Daquane Willford 2-5 0-0 5, Stefan Bozickovic 0-0 0-0, Jordan Wilson 0-0 0-0. Totals 22-52 16-23 70.
West Texas A&M (30-3): David Chavlovich 3-10 7-8 16, CJ Jennings 1-3 0-0 3, Jordan Evans 6-11 0-0 18, Gach Gach 3-7 2-2 10, Ryan Quaid 5-7 6-9 16, Jordan Collins 1-2 3-4 6, Rylan Gerber 0-2 0-0 0, Victor Lewis 0-0 0-0 0, Gaige Prim 9-10 6-7 24, Wyatt Wheatley 0-2 0-0 0, Sterling White 0-0 0-0. Totals: 28-55 24-30 93.
Texas A&M-Commerce;28;42 — 70
West Texas A&M;—33;60 — 90
3-point goals: TAMC: 10-26 (Reid 1-8, Conrod 1-3, Rooks 4-6, Armstrong 1-1, Williams 1-1, Willford 1-3). WT: 13-33 (Chavlovich 3-7, Jennings 1-2, Evans 6-11, Gach 2-5, Collins 1-2). Rebounds: TAMC: 24 (Horne 5). WT: 38 (Quaid 11). Steals: TAMC: 8 (Reid 2, Rooks). WT: 5 (Chavlovich 2). Blocks: TAMC: 2 (Horne 2). WT: 1 (Prim 1). Turnovers: TAMC: 11 (Reid 3, Conrod 3). WT: 11 (Quaid 3, Prim 3). Total Fouls: TAMC: 23. WT: 21. Fouled out: Conrod, Jennings. Technicals: None. Officials: Nick Atwood, Warren Smith, Tommy Johnson. Attendence: 1,194.
University of Texas-Permian Basin (27-5) vs. West Texas A&M (30-3), 7 p.m.