SAN ANTONIO, Tex. - The 12th ranked LSU Shreveport Pilots claimed their first-ever Red River Athletic Conference regular season title on Saturday night with an 88-84 win over the no. 22 Our Lady of the Lake Saints at Mabee Gymnasium. The Pilots erased a 7-point deficit with four minutes to play in the game.
The second half comeback was not the only deficit that the Pilots erased as they overcame a 13-points in the first half in the final 10 minutes and trailed by two at the half 48-46 in a half where the Pilots turned the ball over 18 times.
LSUS head coach Kyle Blankenship was pleased with his teams' performance tonight as they claimed their first victory at Mabee Gymnasium, "I couldn't be more proud of the way we competed and battled tonight. The celebration in the locker room was like none other I've ever been a part of. We worked so hard throughout the season for that one moment and it was worth the wait."
The Pilots worked especially hard tonight in the absence of their senior captain Mark Politte who was hospitalized on Monday with acute kidney failure. LSUS was also missing senior guard Dundrecous Nelson who was out with an injury.
"What a special day for this team and all who have supported us this season. It feels incredible to be the outright RRAC Champions," added Coach Blankenship.
OLLU led by as much as seven in the second half and the 4-point lead the Pilots had at the buzzer was their largest lead of the night.
Will Nelson got into foul trouble about midway through the second half but still managed to lead the Pilots in scoring (22) and rebounding (13) as he recorded another double-double. His running mate Brandon Davis also cashed a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds while three other Pilots netted double figures.
Joseph James made three big three pointers (3-7) as he finished with 17 points. Tevin Hall was 10-for-11 from the charity stripe as he finished with 18 points while Josh Walker added 11 points. Dominic Dennis played 25 minutes and provided the Pilots with some big rebounds totaling eight for the night and he added seven points.
OLLU (20-10, 14-4 RRAC) forced the Pilots into 27 turnovers but their aggressive play defensively cost them 30 personal fouls allowing the Pilots 40 total free-throws in which they made 30 of them. The Saints tossed up plenty of three-pointers (35) but thankfully for the Pilots they only made 10.
The Saints were led by two of their long range shooters D. J. Castro and Xavier Roberson each netted 19 points while Terrence Berry added 13 points and De'Quentin Greer had 12 points.
LSUS went on a 6-0 run to erase a 7-point OLLU lead as Hall completed a three-point play and then James nailed a crucial three to bring the Pilots within one with 2:57 to play in the game. The Saints hit a three of their own to extend the lead back to four and then Nelson made a three-point play to get the Pilots back within one with 1:43 left.
Nelson's bucket with 1:08 to play gave the Pilots the lead by one but OLLU's Roberson made a pair of free throws to give the Saints a one-point lead with just 55 seconds to play. Davis then made a two-point basket and on the insuing possession Nelson was sent to the line and he made both double-bonus free-throws to give the Pilots a 3-point lead with six seconds to play.
OLLU missed the potential game-tying three and Nelson was fouled and he made the second free-throw to seal the deal.
The Pilots are the no. 1 seed in the RRAC Tournament and will receive a first-round bye and their next game will be on Friday (March 7) at East Texas Baptist University at a time and team to be determined.
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