Tigers to play for tourney title for third straight year
With 3:11 remaining in the first half, the upstart Prairie View Panthers held a seven point lead over Jackson State in the semifinals of the SWAC tournament. To make matters worse, three JSU starters were in foul trouble and Grant Maxey’s 11 points were the only contribution from a unit that featured three 1st team all-conference players. That’s when the Tigers’ bench – previously criticized for their lack of production – played their best basketball of the season, picking up 13 huge points and igniting a 23-3 run that tied the game at halftime and all the way to 66-53 win.
“Obviously, it’s a big win for our program,” said JSU head coach Tevester Anderson. “I thought we showed a lot of heart by fighting back. I think it’s a testament to our kids, they way they practice and they way they played today. “Being down like we were and to come back really just says a lot for them.”
With the score knotted at 33, Anderson implored his team to play better defense. “If you are going to win a championship – or even have a chance to win a championship – you are going to have to play good solid defense,” Anderson said. “I thought we did that for the first five minutes of the second half.”
Actually, it was more than that at the Tigers held PVAMU without a single point for the first seven and a half minutes of the second half. By then, JSU held a 49-33 lead and the Panthers were forced to dig themselves out of a deep hole.
And, slowly, but surely they did, climbing all the way back to within eight on two occasions, but each time, Jackson State came up with second shots to push the lead back into double digits.
“Offensive rebounds really hurt us,” said third year Prairie View coach Byron Rimm II. “We played good defensive for the entire possession then let them get it right back and score. Those trips really demoralized us and hurt our effort.”
For JSU, the win meant their straight appearance in the SWAC championship game. “It says a lot about where our program is,” JSU’s Anderson said. “And, its all about the kind of kids we recruit. Adversity reveals character, and when times get tough on the court our kids really step up.”
Despite the loss, Rimm was also upbeat about where his team is. “When we got to the SWAC tournament, we didn’t know what to expect – even as coaches,” Rimm said. “But now the expectation levels are high, next year starts tomorrow and this heartache will help us get ready to take the next step.”
Jacoe Shivers led the Panthers (17-16) with 12 points, with Dorian McDaniel and Derek Johnson adding nine each. Maxey’s 15 points paced JSU, while Darrion Griffin and Garrison Johnson each tallied 11.
JSU advances to the Championship game Saturday night at 8 p.m., with the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament on the line.