West Texas A&M’s Larry Wise goes up over a Angelo State defender during an NCAA Division II South Central Regional quarterfinal game at the Rip Griffin Center on the campus of Lubbock Christian. [Photo by LCU athletics]
LUBBOCK— Of all places, Lubbock Christian’s Rip Griffin Center has become WT’s playoff home away from home.
No. 2 seed West Texas A&M advanced to the South Central Region semifinals Saturday afternoon holding off a late-rally from No. 7 seed Angelo State and using the scoring of Julius Brown and Hayden Blankley to beat Lone Star Conference foe Angelo State 84-76 at The Rip.
The win was the fourth in a row for WT in South Central Region games on its biter rival LCU’s court.
Last year, WT won all three of its South Central regional games at LCU eventually advancing to the DII national championship game.
“This is kind of our home away from home, I guess,” said WT coach Tom Brown, his 29-6 team headed to the regional semifinals at 5 p.m. Sunday against No. 3 seed Black Hills State. “I am pleased with the way our guys played and made our free throws down the stretch. Because Angelo State is a really good team and if they were in a different region I think they could get out.”
Although Angelo State (20-10) never led in the game it made things way too interesting for WT over the final minutes as the Buffs held a cozy 54-33 lead with 13:42 remining, seemingly having things under control.
But this is a Division II regional with the losers seeing their season end and Angelo State, which defeated WT in Canyon this year, went out fighting by making 12 of its final 14 field goal attempts.
The closest ASU chopped down the Buffs lead late was five points twice at 71-66 with 1:47 to play on a Dante Moses dunk, then with 44 seconds to play 78-73 on a Devaughn Thomas 3-pointer.
Both times WT had the answer.
Shortly after Moses’ dunk WT’s Larry Wise buried a deep 3-pointer building the Buffs lead back to eight.
“A huge three for us by Larry,” Brown said. “Even if Larry had missed it was a good shot. So I liked everything about that shot.”
After the Thomas trey, Moses made two free throws seconds later for an 80-73 lead. Then with 23 seconds remaining, Julius Brown buried two free throws for an 82-73 cushion.
Over the final 62 seconds, Angelo State fouled WT pretty much every possession and the Buffs answered by going 10-of-10 from the line.
Julius Brown was brilliant during the game going 8-for-8 from the line during the final 62 seconds, in charge of much of the Buffs ball handling duties which resulted in a mere six WT turnovers, plus finished with a game-high 30 points.
“Julius does so much for us,” Brown said of the junior who joined the Buffs in the fall after playing for Lincoln Memorial last year. “The six turnovers compared to their 14 were a big part of this win. And then those free throws (15 of 19 for the game) were another big part.”
Joining Julius Brown in double figures for the Buffs were Blankley with 17, Wise with 12 and Zach Toussaint added 10.
West Texas High’s Dalin Williams also played a key role in WT’s win as the 6-9 junior handled his own inside scoring nine points and grabbing a team-high nine rebounds.
Angelo State had five players score all 76 of its points with Thomas and Paul Williams each scoring 18, Lethaniel Bastian at 16, and Tyrell Carroll and Dante Moses each with 12.
The first half was all West Texas inspired by the offense of sophomore Blankley and junior Julius Brown.
After a see-saw opening seven minutes WT took control leading 35-30 with five minutes to play before settling on a 40-24 halftime lead.
The Buffs played their up-tempo offense whenever given the chance by a hustling and athletic Angelo State squad.
The 6-6 Blankley and 5-10 Julius Brown combined to score 23 of the Buffs 25 points finding room in Angelo State’s man-to-man defense mainly on the outside.
All 12 of Blankley’s points arrived from 3-point land as he connected on 4-of-5 treys. While Julius Brown, who deftly handled the Buffs point guard duties, made a pair of 3-pointers on three shots and finished 5-of-12 from the floor.
“That was big for us to get up early,” Julius Brown said. “And I’ve been telling everybody the past two weeks when Hayden is on we can beat anybody in the nation.”
West Texas A&M coach Brown had the chance to watch Black Hills State beat Dallas Baptist 76-68 before his game and came away impressed.
Black Hills State rained down 10 3-pointers and was led by the RMAC player of the year 6-7 Joel Scott who scored 25.
“Black Hills is very good,” Brown said. “We will have our work cut out for us.”
South Central Regional
At Lubbock Christian, Lubbock, Tx.
West Texas 84, Angelo State 76
Angelo State (20-10): Paul Williams 18, Devaughn Thomas 18, Lathaniel Bastian 16, Tyrell Carroll 12, Dante Moses 12. Leading rebounder: Bastian 12.
West Texas (29-6): Julius Brown 30, Hayden Blankley 17, Larry Wise 12, Zach Toussaint 10, Dalin Williams 9, Jesse Iweze 2, Cameron Bell 2, Jonas Carlisle 2. Leading rebounder: Williams 9.