HUTCHINSON, Kansas — The Texans needed both.
Trailing 78-77 with eight ticks left in regulation, South Plains' Deshawn Corprew stepped to the charity stripe for a one-and-one following a blocking foul called on Salt Lake's Hunter Schofield.
The 6-foot-6 swingman from Norfolk, Virginia made the most of the opportunity, knocking down consecutive free throws to put the Texans up one. Needing one final stand, the Bruins pushed the floor for an opportunity to win it, but Dalven Brushier's desperation 3 from the top of the key clanked off the side of the rim as South Plains knocked off the fourth-seeded Bruins 79-78 Wednesday at the Hutchinson Sports Arena to advance to the Elite 8 against Connors State (31-3) at 6 p.m. on Thursday.
"We didn't want our season to end today, and my teammates just told me to stay poised and I was able to knock down both shots and help get us the win," Corprew said. "Ben's shot was really big and he's been doing that for us most of the season. It feels great to win this one and we've come a long way and I'm really proud of everyone on this team."
Trailing 78-74 with under a minute to play, Corprew found teammate Ben Perez in the corner as the sophomore guard from San Diego, California drained a 3 to bring the Texans within one. Following a timeout from South Plains head coach Steve Green, Salt Lake's Bushmen Ebet put up a 3-ball from the corner which fell short, giving the Texans an opportunity to retake the lead in the final seconds as they picked up their ninth win in the last 10 outings.
"The shot felt really good, and Deshawn was able to find me with a good pass right in the pocket and I was able to do my job from there," Perez said. "This was huge for us because at the beginning of the year if we would have faced some adversity, we probably would have crumbled and let the game slip away, and I'm really proud of the guys to withstand that pressure and come out on top with the win."
Leading 37-34 at the half, South Plains (25-8) opened its lead to five on a layup from Isaiah Maurice with 19:52 to play, which the Bruins answered with a 9-0 run to take a 43-41 lead with 17:46 left. Freshman Keith McGee would put South Plains back up 48-47 with a runner from the baseline to recapture the lead with under 15 minutes to go.
McGee would then find Perez at the top of the key as the 6-foot-3 sharpshooter knocked down a trey to put the Texans up five with 12:24 to go. Perez would then put South Plains up eight, 63-54, this time with a 3 from the right wing with just over 11 minutes remaining.
"We hit some shots when we had to, and we also put ourselves in a situation where we definitely had to dig ourselves out of a hole," Green said. "It was hard fought and a slowed played game, and execution was vital, and when we did it we scored and when we didn't I think we went into a slump. We got a lot of points off of called plays, and the game was slow enough today where we had to call a lot of stuff."
The final four minutes of the contest saw five lead changes as South Plains shot 40 percent from the field and 44 percent from 3 in the second half. Salt Lake shot 55 percent from the floor and 55 percent from the 3-point line in the contest but lost the battle on the glass as South Plains outrebounded their counterpart 40-31 and forced the Bruins into 18 turnovers.
Sophomore Isaiah Maurice led all scorers with 22 points to go along with seven boards, knocking down 10 of 16 shots as he recorded his fifth consecutive game with at least 20 points. Perez netted 18 points, six rebounds and three assists, bucketing 6 of his 13 attempts from the field and was 5 of 9 from the 3-point line.
McGee finished with 15 points, five assists and four steals while Christopher Orlina chipped in 11 and Corprew netted seven points, snagged six rebounds and handed out five assists. Kur Kuath led the Bruins (30-4) with 14 points on 6 of 7 shooting from the field over 29 minutes. Christian Gray finished with 13 points and four boards for Salt Lake while Bushmen and Brushier each had 11 and Jordan Gilliam finished with nine.