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Stephen F. Austin Basketball

Let's Dance! SFA's reign in the Southland Conference continues

March 11, 2018
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A 14-point lead became a six-point deficit. During that 20 point swing, all as a part of one massive 22-2 run, Southeastern Louisiana took it straight to Stephen F. Austin.

The Lumberjacks looked rattled, twice botching called sets out of timeouts, gassed in the second half of their third basketball game in three nights, and the Lions' Cinderella story was ready to become reality.

But then something flipped. After using a third timeout to try to stop the Southeastern momentum, SFA head coach Kyle Keller employed his players to be desperate. It was all they had left, less than four minutes remaining in the season, and faced with the hottest team in the field.

The Lumberjacks responded and, in Keller's second year at the helm, were crowned kings of the Southland Conference once again, after taking a season off.

As SFA awaits its fate on Selection Sunday, here are some observations from a Saturday in Katy:

Every fanbase has bad fans. Good fans need to step in when things happen like they did in the SFA/UCA women's game -

I have never had a complaint about Central Arkansas fans before. Mostly, they're a great group. But I was dismayed when, Kennedy Harris laying on the floor holding her face, UCA fans started loudly taunting her.

And here's the thing: it wasn't one or two groups of fans. It was many, many people participating. More disappointing to me was that nobody in the area put a stop to it, even though some were clearly uncomfortable. I was sitting several seats down from SFA Athletic Director Robert Hill, who looked at me and said, "this is why I could never sit in the stands."

Sports are an emotional pastime, but there is never an excuse for the behavior of UCA fans. Never. And that includes the bystanders who sat by without intervening. 

This is worth saying again: the double-bye format is genius -

It's really hard to win three games in three days when your opponent had to play just two. Ladyjacks head coach Mark Kellogg has many times chronicled just how his team completely ran out of gas in their title game last season after landing in that scenario. 

In fact, on the men's bracket, it had never been done before the Lumberjacks pulled it off this time around. The fatigue, a factor in Southeastern's monster run, made it really hard to do. It should be hard.

All around the country, top seeds are losing and conferences are unable to showcase their best. The Southland Conference has historically had that problem, too. Credit them for doing something about it. The entire event in Katy is masterfully ran and the commissioner's office deserves credit for that.

The Merrell Center aka "WRJ South" is a thing and everyone knows it -

A few hours before the men's championship game, I overheard a representative for a tournament sponsor discussing the SFA-Nicholls semifinals game. "I was really nervous that we sponsored the championship and it was going to be Nicholls and Southeastern," he said laughing. "There should actually be people at this one now."

After the game, I was discussing the events with a conference staffer when another one walked up and announced: "we know the outcome might have been different if SFA wasn't playing a home game."

For years, the SFA advantage at the Merrell Center has been notable. Unless the tournament moves east, that won't change. WRJ South is a thing, and SFA fans should be proud of it.

This is Kyle Keller's program and it is built in his image -

They aren't perfect by any means. Flaws show up, sometimes at the worst moments, and have to be countered by sheer will. Keller said it best after the game: "your biggest talent is your heart," he told reporters. Keller's personality is reflected in every facet of his team.

They're still learning, still perfecting their craft, and they'll get occasionally get caught on the wrong day. But there's a never quit attitude that helps them play at their absolute best whenever adversity strikes — the way they played after every loss, and in each of the past two nights after big runs by their opponents is just more evidence of it. 

Lumberjacks coaching greats like Brad Underwood and Danny Kaspar are a big part of the culture that allowed Keller to so quickly build his program. But this isn't Kaspar's nor Underwood's program now.

This is all about Kyle Keller. This is his team, his players, his legacy.

It's time to give credit where it is due.

The Ladyjacks have a legitimate chance to make it two-for-two today -

Noon. Merrell Center. See you there.

Discussion from...

Let's Dance! SFA's reign in the Southland Conference continues

SFAJack_76
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Good stuff as usual.

Post game, I have not heard or read a word about the impact of the Canete technical. We were fortunate that Veal missed two of the four free throws, but that definitely was the spark for the 22-2 run. I know if Keller had been asked about it that he would have said the politically correct things and I am okay with that, but still someone should have asked. Canete's stat line from last night was actually very good. That selfish act on his part could have cost us the championship. I expect more from the seniors like what Ty did in knocking down those two free throws. I trust the transgression is being properly addressed.
edstile
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Postgame celebrations...

https://postimg.org/gallery/1cpn9bpqu/
edstile
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"Way back when" (seems like an eternity), the Mississippi State and Missouri coaches both said of SFA "That's an NCAA Tournament Team".

Finally (and thankfully), we've proven them right!
edstile
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From the Houston Chronicle...

https://www.chron.com/sports/college/article/SFA-beats-Southeastern-Louisiana-to-earn-NCAA-12744179.php
nacluth
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Nice pics Ed!
SFA88
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edstile said:

From the Houston Chronicle...

https://www.chron.com/sports/college/article/SFA-beats-Southeastern-Louisiana-to-earn-NCAA-12744179.php

Great article.
edstile
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nacluth said:

Nice pics Ed!
I took many more short video clips of the celebration than I did still pictures, but I didn't know how to post those.
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