MESA, Arizona — In their first matchup since the 2018 national title game, the South Plains College men's basketball team placed three players in double figures as they ousted College of Southern Idaho 66-61 Friday at the Fiesta Bowl Junior College Shootout at Theo Heap Gymnasium on the campus of Mesa Community College.
The Texans advance to the winner's bracket and will square off with Seward County at 8 p.m. MST on Saturday after the Saints defeated No. 21 Triton College 97-96 in double overtime Friday in the tournament opener.
"Rivaldo and Jevonnie played with confidence tonight, and we needed every ounce of it," South Plains head coach Steve Green said. "Coming off a long break is tough but everyone we play is in the same situation. We come out here to this tournament each year and see how we match up with other teams from around the country, and we're not afraid to play anybody. We come out here because we feel it makes us better."
After jumping out to a 37-24 lead at the midway point, the Texans would control the front part of the second half and lead 52-38 following a 3-ball from Rivaldo Soares with 7:46 to play in the game. The Golden Eagles (9-7) would utilize a 7-2 run and trim their deficit to 54-45 on a layup from Maurice Barnett with 5:36 to play.
Mike Hood would bring CSI within six, 56-50 on a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 4:25 remaining, but Jevonnie Scott would answer with a put back at the rim to put the Texans up eight, 58-50 with just under four minutes to go. Junior Farquhar would then extend South Plains' lead to 62-52 with a layup with 2:24 to play, but CSI would answer with a 3 from Stevie Smith to trim the Texans' lead to 62-55.
Following a pair of free throws from Farquhar that pushed South Plains' lead to 66-58, Hood connected from distance with 16 ticks left to bring CSI within five, but it wouldn't be enough as the Texans controlled the rock in the final seconds as South Plains extended its win streak to three straight.
"You look at CSI's total and you have to be happy with our defensive effort, but we just gave away too many offensive opportunities and nearly blew a 13-point lead," Green said. "We definitely have to work on that, but in the end, we made the plays when we had to tonight. We will get Seward tomorrow and they are scrappy and are a little quicker than us, and we will have to make some adjustments and play extremely tough."
Soares led all scorers in the contest with 20 points and six rebounds, knocking down 6 of 15 shots from the floor and was 5-for-9 from the 3-point line over 37 minutes. Scott totaled 14 points and six rebounds, bucketing 6 of 9 shots from the field and was 2 of 3 from distance for South Plains.
Fredelin De La Cruz chipped in 10 points and snagged seven boards coming off the bench for the Texans, finishing 2 of 4 from the floor and a perfect 6-for-6 from the charity stripe in 25 minutes of action. South Plains shot 38.8 percent from the field and 40 percent from 3, netting 16 points inside the paint.