GoBearkats.com / Brandon K. Scott / Bearkat Athletics – The Bearkats had been here before. Three times already this season in conference play, Sam Houston State played a game to the final possession. Wednesday night in Nacogdoches was no different. Unfortunatley for the Bearkats, the outcome wasn’t different either.
Demarcus Gatlin missed a lay-up at the close of overtime in a 67-66 loss to the Lumberjacks.
After a missed SFA free throw with 7.5 second left, the Kats had a chance to win the game. Gatlin dribbled the length of the floor, but left his last-second shot short, dropping the Kats to 2-4 in Southland play.
The close to regulation also came down to the final possession. Konner Tucker hit a 3-pointer with 13 seconds left to tie the game at 61. SFA had a chance to win the game at the end of regulation, but a last second shot rimmed out.
Four Bearkats finished the game in double figures with Tucker leading the way with 20.
SFA led by as many as 15 points in the second half Wednesday, but that wasn’t enough to keep the Bearkats down.
It took withstanding a late comeback by an inexperienced Sam Houston team that’s becoming programmed to play in close games.
The Kats were fortunate to only trail by only two points at halftime, having shot only 30 percent from the field in that period compared to the Lumberjacks’ 44.4 percent.
Then the start of the second half appeared to bury Sam Houston. SFA jumped out to a 14-2 run in the first 4:09 of the second half, capped by a score in the lane by point guard Darius Gardner to expand the lead to 39-25.
Sam Houston’s leading scorer Konner Tucker, who in defeat was the star of the evening with 20 points on 50 percent shooting and all of his made buckets coming from behind the 3-point line, stepped up big for the Bearkats.
“I think throughout the whole game we fought,” Tucker said. “We fought hard and didn’t give up, you know. We were down, what, 15? And then we started making a run and everybody played their heart out tonight.”
The Kats chipped away bit by bit at the Lumberjacks’ double-digit lead. With just over four minutes to go, Tucker hit a 3 to cut the SFA lead to five. He had just hit another long-range basket a few minutes earlier to bring Sam Houston within seven points.
The Bearkats were on fire, totally opposite of the poor first-half shooting performance. Including overtime, Sam Houston shot 63.2 percent from the field in the second half.
Meanwhile, SFA was still shooting its way out of the Kats’ zone. The Jacks’ relied on sophomore Desmond Haymon’s career-high 18 points and the most 3-pointers he’d ever made in a game.
Haymond kept Sam Houston at bay with two scores during the Kats’ surge.
Nevertheless, Sam Houston ended regulation on a 9-2 run.
Tucker hit a 3-pointer on the left wing with Gardner smothering him to tie the game at 61.
“We ran a play where Darius comes off my screen and I’m flaring off a screen on the other side,” Tucker said. “I caught it and he was kind of all up in me so I ripped through and tried to back him up off me.
“I just rose up and luckily it went in.”
Unluckily, though, Tucker’s 3-pointer with 12 second to go in overtime was no good, and neither was DeMarcus Gatlin’s last second layup attempt fell just short.
“We just got to push through adversity,” Gatlin said. “We’re getting better. We’re a young team and we’re finally starting to sync with each other. We’re growing up.”
That period of growth started with UTSA’s Kannon Barrage scoring on a last possession shot to beat Sam Houston in the conference opener on Jan. 8.
Then it was A&M-Corpus Christi in Saturday’s game that came back on Sam Houston after trailing by 16, on a last-possession bucket by freshman Hameed Ali.
This loss was a little different because it was Sam Houston making the comeback, and it almost happened. It’s just that almost doesn’t count.
“It was a tough game to lose, but we can’t hold our head on it,” Tucker said. “We just have to bounce back. We’ve got a game on Saturday against UTSA.”
The Kats will be back in action on Saturday in San Antonio, with the game starting at 4 p.m.