After seeing his West Texas A&M Buffs somehow rally from a four-point deficit with 5.7 seconds remaining to capture the 2023 Lone Star Conference Tournament, WT head coach Tom Brown offered words of wisdom.
“That was a game for the ages,” Brown said.
No doubt about it.
WT looked dead in the water with six seconds remaining and trailing 63-59 in the LSC men’s championship game against an Angelo State team seeking the schools’ first title since 1989.
But Angelo State miscues and WT’s clutch shooting provided a crazy last spree of points by the Buffs that would bring home a 64-63 win at the sixth-straight LSC Tournament Title for WT at Comerica Center in Frisco.
WT senior Larry Wise was fouled shooting a 3-pointer with 5.7 seconds remaining and made all three free throws cutting the Angelo State lead to 63-62. Then after a costly Angelo State turnover on the in-bounds, Buffs guard Zach Toussaint ended up with the ball on WT’s inbounds at the elbow and canned the 15-footer with 2.8 seconds remaining for the 64-63 lead.
Once again, Angelo failed to get the ball inbounds and this time Toussaint, who sent WT to a national championship game two years ago on a buzzer beater in the national semifinals, was fouled. He purposely missed both free throws with 1.1 seconds and remaining and Angelo State’s final heave at the basket missed the entire backboard.
“I couldn’t do any of that without the help of my teammates,” said 5-11 guard Toussaint, who finished with 11 points. “I was bumped a little bit and just shot it and it went in. That (comeback) is just WT. We like to win.”
During the first half nobody watching this one ever thought this would be “a game for the ages.” WT had controlled the game in the first half holding a dominating 37-25 lead over Angelo State, a team it split games with during the LSC regular season each winning at home. But Angelo State, guided by Shamrock native and former WT assistant coach Vinay Patel in his first year with the Rams, not only made things interesting but had the Buffs on the ropes late in the game.
Angelo State put on a 14-0 run in the second half, eventually holding that four-point lead with six seconds remaining before WT pulled out the unlikely finish.
“What a bunch of fighters Angelo State has,” Brown said. “They did not quit. They got into foul trouble and didn’t give up and hit some big shots. I feel for Vinay. Because I have been on the other side of that.”
Angelo State was led in scoring by Reggie Quezada’s 18 points, while Willie Guy added 16 points.
The Rams drop to 25-6 on the season and will advance to Division II national tournament learning their regional seeding late Sunday evening.
WT placed give players in double figures scoring and saw senior transfer Damien Thornton produce a double-double with 10 points and 13 rebounds.
Wise led WT with 16 points, followed by Julius Brown and Toussaint with 11 each, while Thornton and Ryland Holt each scored 10.
Toussaint was named Tournament MVP, while Thornton and Brown each earned all-tournament.
The Buffs improved to 25-6 overall, won their LSC record sixth consecutive LSC tournament titles and their LSC-best 12th tourney title.
“We have a bunch of great guys and I know coach say that as this time of the year all the time,” Brown said. “But these have been really great. … I’m so proud of these guys. Whether this was one tournament title in a row or three in a row, this one was really special this conference championship.”
Brown does not think WT will host the upcoming regional tournament because of some earlier losses.
WT, like Angelo State, will learn their seed late Sunday evening.