KILGORE – Lamar State College-Port Arthur went to Kilgore with thoughts of upsetting the No. 2 nationally-ranked Rangers. The Seahawks almost pulled it off.
Kilgore outlasted the Hawks 85-79 at Masters Gymnasium on Saturday afternoon to move to 14-1 overall and 5-1 in NJCAA Region XIV play. The Seahawks drop to 14-3 and 5-2 with the loss.
"I'm proud of our guys," Seahawks Head Coach Lance Madison. "We played a good game, we fought them hard. We were in a position to win against a good basketball team – a nationally-ranked team – but we weren't able to get it done. You move on, you don't let it hurt you more than it does right at this moment with the loss, and you prepare for the next step."
Early on, it looked like an upset was in the making as the Seahawks managed to pull out to a four- and five-point advantage behind the shooting of freshman guard JoJo Mooring and sophomore center Anthony Allen.
But the Rangers kept chipping away at the Seahawks' lead, finally getting ahead and staying there as the halftime break neared. Kilgore took a six-point lead, 41-35, into the locker room and the Seahawks went to the drawing board.
The halftime adjustments worked as the Hawks came back to push the Rangers against the wall, finally giving LSC-PA the lead 56-55 on a 3-pointer by sophomore Tre Bennett at the 9:40 mark. Lamar State-PA couldn't build on that advantage as Kilgore kept up the defensive pressure coupled with a strong rebounding performance.
"We missed some layups, some easy shots," Madison said. "We had our chances to get out ahead for good but it didn't happen."
A big reason for LSC-PA's inability to run away with the ball was an officiating crew dead-set on slowing the game down into a free-throw shooting contest.
Down the stretch, officials stymied the flow of the game, which especially hindered the Seahawks' typical run-and-gun transition offense that has catapulted the team among the top six in the nation in scoring this season.
"That's life on the road," Madison said. "Sometimes you don't get the calls. It's hard to officiate these games. It's an up-tempo style of play and there are a lot of good athletes out there. All we can hope for is for them to be consistent and fair on both ends of the court."
The Hawks were led in scoring by Bennett with 17 points with five rebounds, while Shabazz hit for 16 points with a team-high 11 rebounds. Mooring scored 15, hitting 12 of 12 from the free throw line. Sophomore D.J. Blanks scored 12 points.
Kilgore was paced by Stefan Moody's 30-point performance.
"The job for us now is to regroup and get ready for the next team," Madison said. "We have to come back and put this game behind us."
The Hawks return home to the Parker Center on Wednesday for a 7:30 game against Houston Community College, a non-conference showdown. The next Region XIV game for Lamar State-PA is Saturday in Pasadena when the Seahawks face South Division arch-rival San Jacinto College at 4 p.m.