LUBBOCK – During Sunday's Region V men's basketball tournament championship, two of the best junior college teams in the nation showed what they could do.
Unfortunately for Howard College, the South Plains College Texans could do a little bit more.
Behind an outstanding shooting performance from guard Marshall Henderson, the Texans rallied from a first half deficit to claim the Region V title with an 84-74 victory at Lubbock Christian University's Rip Griffin Center.
With the victory, the No. 1 ranked Texas (33-0) advance to the national junior college tournament later this month in Hutchinson, Kan.
Henderson sank 12 of 21 shots – including 8 of 15 from three-point range – to lead all scorers with 32 points.
And the Texans needed almost every single one of those points, as they twice watched the Hawks rally from significant deficits during the game.
The first rally came in the closing minutes of the first half when, trailing 36-26, the Hawks went on a 18-5 run capped by Shavon Coleman's buzzer-beating three-pointer from the halfcourt line to take a 44-41 lead into intermission.
However, the long-range jump shots that allowed Howard to take the lead in the first half (Howard hit seven three-pointers in the opening stanza) disappeared in the second 20 minutes of the game – the Hawks had only two three-pointers down the stretch and shot only 29 percent from the field in the final half.
The Texans took full advantage, carving out a 74-65 lead on a Henderson three-point shot with 4:44 remaining.
Once again, however, the Hawks rallied. Jacob Thomas scored on consecutive possessions, Phillip Miller added another jumper and Coleman contributed a pair of free throws to bring Howard to within a point of the lead with 2:14 left in the game.
Unfortunately for the Hawks, that's where their rally ended. Henderson tallied another three-pointer to push the lead back up to four, and the Texans were able to gradually pull away for the win.
Howard Coach Mark Adams said the Hawks simply had no answer for Henderson.
“Henderson hit a bunch of key shots for South Plains,” Adams said. “But that's what great players do in big games – they make big plays.”
Coleman led the Hawks (23-9) with 22 points, while Thomas scored 18 and Calvin Godfrey and Miller added 15 and 10 points, respectively.
Aside from Henderson, four other Texans scored in double figures, including Yanick Moreira and Tymell Murphy, who each had 12 points.
Afterward, Adams said the game was a showcase of two of the finest junior college programs in the nation.
“I know (South Plains Coach) Steve Green thinks that's the best team he's ever had, and this is one of the best teams I've ever coached,” Adams said. “It's a shame you can only take one of these teams to nationals.”
HOWARD (74) – Leon Cooper 2 0-0 4; Rico Richardson 1 0-0 2; Jacob Thomas 6 2-2 18; Calvin Godfrey 5 5-6 15; Shavon Coleman 7 5-6 22; Phillip Miller 4 1-3 10; Damion McGee 1 0-0 3; totals 26 13-17 74.
SOUTH PLAINS (84) – Yanick Moreira 3 6-9 12; Devonte Smith 4 1-2 10; Stanton Kidd 2 1-3 5; Marshall Henderson 12 0-0 32; Tymell Murphy 4 2-2 10; Deshaunt Walker 4 0-0 11; Greg Gainey 0 0-2 0; totals 29 12-20; 84.
Halftime – Howard 44, South Plains 41; Three-point goals – Howard 9 (Thomas 4, Coleman 3, Miller 1, McGee 1), South Plains 14 (Smith 1, Henderson 8, Murphy 2, Walker 3); Total fouls – Howard 20, South Plains 17; Fouled out – Murphy; Technicals – none.