Katy, TX (Sports Network) - Gilberto Clavell scored 21 points, grabbed five rebounds, and dished out four assists, as the top-seeded Sam Houston State Bearkats punched their ticked to the NCAA Tournament with a 64-48 victory over Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks in the Southland Conference Tournament championship game at the Merrell Center.
Corey Allmond added 19 points and six rebounds for the Bearkats (25-7), who won the Southland Conference title for the first time since 2003. Ashton Mitchell chipped in 13 points and six assists for the victors.
"I am proud of our guys. They came out and played with a lot of energy," Sam Houston State head coach Bob Marlin said. "We were able to get a lead and our defense really picked it up in the first half and we continued that against a very good offensive team. Second half we didn't shoot the ball as well. But Corey did hit one big three and we were able to get the ball under the basket and keep the lead in double digits the entire game which I thought was important."
Jereal Scott finished with 13 points and seven boards for the Lumberjacks (23-9), who won the league title last year. Walt Harris ended with nine points and five rebounds for Stephen F. Austin, which was making its fourth appearance in the championship game since 2003.
The Bearkats took control from the opening tip, scoring the first five points of the contest. Holding an 11-7 lead with less than 14 1/2 minutes left, Clavell made a layup to spark a 20-5 Sam Houston State run. Allmond ended the burst with a three-point play to make it a 31-12 game with under five minutes to go. The score was 35-19 at the break.
Trailing 42-23 in the second half, the Lumberjacks went on a brief 9-2 spurt to make things a bit interesting. Harris bookended the flurry with a trey and three-point play to cut the deficit to 12, 44-32, with about 11 1/2 minutes remaining.
The Bearkats responded with a 10-4 surge to essentially seal the victory. Allmond's layup extended SHSU's margin to 54-36 with a little over seven minutes to play.
Sam Houston State maintained a double-digit lead the rest of the way.
"I thought Sam Houston played particularly well, especially in the first half," Stephen F. Austin head coach Danny Kaspar said. "We talked about them delivering an early knockout punch and they were successful in doing that. Our shooting tonight from the perimeter was not very good. We were 8-of-33 and I think that tells the story. When you play a team like Sam Houston State it makes it almost impossible to win."
The Lumberjacks still hold a 92-90 edge over Sam Houston State in the all-time series, but the Bearkats have won eight of the last 11 meetings, including a 66-57 decision over Stephen F. Austin earlier this season...This was the fourth time SHSU and SFA met in the Southland Conference Tournament...Sam Houston State shot 46.7 percent from the field, while the Lumberjacks made just 31.4 percent of their shots.
03/13 19:52:47 ET