LEVELLAND — Rivaldo Soares posted a career-high 28 points Thursday night as the top-ranked South Plains College men's basketball team held off Western Texas College 87-80 in a conference slugfest at the Texan Dome.
The Texans remain unblemished, improving to 13-0 on the season and 8-0 in conference play, and will be back on the floor Saturday afternoon when they travel to Clarendon College to take on the Bulldogs at 3:45 p.m. The contest will stream live at spctexans.com.
"We were fortunate tonight, and we had a tough time guarding them," South Plains head coach Steve Green said. "He (CJ Smith) makes their whole team go. We got off to a good start offensively and fell into this false sense of this is just going to continue. We never had five guys on the floor who were really playing well, and we never had a cohesive group of guys who shared the same commitment at the same time."
Taking a five point lead into the locker room after 20 minutes, South Plains would take its largest lead of the game at the 14:17 mark of the second half following a jumper from Philmon Gebrewhit to put the Texans up 61-48. Western would respond with a 10-3 run and get within six, 64-58 on a layup from Nakavieon White with just under 12 minutes to go.
"I told the guys at halftime, 'congratulations, we've attempted 20 3s at halftime and zero free throws,'" Green said. "That's not a good stat, unless you've made all 20. That shows we were settling and not driving the ball. The guys who we have that normally drive the basketball didn't do that tonight."
Soares would give the Texans breathing room with a one-handed dunk with 10:26 remaining to put South Plains up 70-61. The Westerners answered with a 10-5 run and got within four, 75-71 on a 3 from Lorenzo Downey with 6:01 to go. Soares would continue his career night with a pair of free throws with just over five minutes to play to give South Pains a 79-71 advantage.
"Rivaldo played well and I thought Philmon played really well," Green said. "Phil is continuing on the streak of his sophomore year and has turned into something that is vital to us. Vonnie got off to a good start and had a great attitude tonight and that's all I can ask for."
Downey would get Western within striking distance with 1:44 remaining, dropping in a triple to bring the score to 83-80. Following a scoreless streak over the next 90 seconds, Soares would knock down a pair of free throws with 16 seconds remaining, part of an 8-for-8 effort from the charity stripe for the 6-7 guard from Boston, icing the game for South Plains.
The Texans shot 45.5 (30-66) percent from the field and were 41.9 percent (13-31) from the 3-point line, while posting a perfect 14-for-14 mark from the free throw line. Soares finished 9 of 17 from the floor and also snagged six boards and blocked three shots over 39 minutes.
Gebrewhit netted double figures for the fourth consecutive game, bucketing a career-high 20 points on 8 of 12 shooting and was 4 of 7 from distance coming off the bench. Dalph Panopio chipped in 11 points, dished out a team-high seven assists, and hauled in six rebounds for South Plains in 30 minutes of action. Sophomore big man Jevonnie Scott tallied 10 points, five assists, and four rebounds while Benjamin Bayela had seven points, two rebounds and a pair of assists.