Birmingham, AL (Sports Network) - Andrew Hayles netted 17 points to lead all scorers and dropped a trio of three-point shots, as the Alabama State Hornets punched their ticket to the NCAA Tournament with a 65-58 win against Jackson State in the Southwestern Athletic Conference Tournament championship game from Fair Park Arena.
Wesley Jones logged 14 points and seven rebounds while Roland Fitch scored 12 for top-seeded Alabama State (22-9), which claimed the regular season title with a 16-2 ledger and hits the big stage next week having won four in a row and 13 of its last 14 contests.
Alabama State had captured this title twice prior, with the last one coming in 2004.
Grant Maxey paced the Tigers with 15 points and six rebounds for second-seeded Jackson State (18-15), which had won five consecutive games and 13 of its last 14 matchups coming in.
Garrison Johnson and Darrion Griffin each had 12 points in defeat.
Jackson State won its fifth league title in 2007, but fell just short of its sixth this past season with a loss to Mississippi Valley State in the conference title match.
The teams played it close out of the gate before a 12-2 Tigers' run resulted in a 20-11 lead with 3:24 to go. Jones' layup was the Hornets' lone points over nearly an eight-minute stretch but Jones scored eight points in a little over a minute, completing the surge with a three-point play for a 25-19 margin with 1:33 to play.
Tramaine Butler followed with two free throws and Brandon Brooks' dunk closed the half with the Hornets trailing by only two, 25-23.
Jones sank a three-ball nearly 2 1/2 minutes into the second half for a 30-29 lead and the teams continued to trade baskets before the Hornets embarked on a 15-3 run that saw Hayles bury a pair of threes, the last of which capped the stretch for a 47-36 game with 10:21 left to play.
Jeremy Caldwell and Kenny Russell responded with a pair of layups and Maxey hit a deuce, closing the gap to five but Jackson State would go the next seven-plus minutes without a field goal until Harrison hit a jumper with 1:16 left.
That shot came with four Hornets' free throws wrapped around it, the latter of which came from Fitch for a 61-52 margin.
Russell drained a three-pointer for the Tigers to scratch back within six but Alabama State sealed the win with three trips to the line in the last minute.
These two teams split a pair of games in the regular season...Overall, the Tigers have a comfortable 42-25 edge in the all-time series...Alabama State shot 44.7 percent from the field compared to Jackson State's 37 percent shooting effort...Russell finished with nine points for the Tigers...Brooks had a game-high six helpers with eight points for the Hornets.
03/15 00:00:24 ET
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