Tyler Junior College Men’s Basketball Team was defeated in the third round of the Region XIV basketball tournament by Paris Junior College 95-80 at UT-Tyler’s Herrington Patriot Center on March 8.
A semi-final loss to a team that the Apaches had beaten earlier in the season, in the Apaches hometown, was not what head coach Mike Marquis had in mind.
However, the road to the semi-final game was successful.
At the end of the regular season, the men’s 23-5 overall record and their 13-5 conference record was good enough for a tie for first atop Region XIV’s north zone, which earned TJC a first round bye.
The men’s first action came on March 7 when they matched up against Blinn College in the quarterfinals. Coach Marquis felt he had his team ready to play.
“We won five in a row to end the regular season with three of those wins coming on the road,” Marquis said. “I’m very happy with our team’s play at the end of the season.”
The Apaches proved their coach right, overcoming Blinn’s hot-shooting start to win the game 88-84, improving their record to 24-5 and advancing to Sunday night’s semi-final game.
Sunday’s game plan against Paris Junior College was simple.
“We have to rebound well,” Marquis said. “If we get beat on the glass, we are going to have a tough time beating anybody.”
With that in mind, TJC and Paris tipped off a little after 8 p.m. Sunday night at UT-Tyler. It would be the last time the Apaches would do so this season.
Despite sophomore guard Reggie Nelson’s game high 23 points, the Apaches did not have enough gas in the tank to defeat sharp shooting Paris Junior College.
It was a back-and-forth contest in the first half, ending in Paris claiming the half-time lead with the score at 39-33. It was TJC’s on the ball defense that kept the Dragons from running away with the game in its early stages. The men’s team went only three of nine from three point land and shot a paltry 49 percent from the charity stripe in the opening half.
However the second half, without a doubt, belonged to the Paris Dragons who outscored TJC by nine points in route to their victory.
Leading by example, 5-foot-9 point guard Raymond Sims had a team high 16 points on the way to the win. The regions assist leader, he dished out 6.2 assists per game this season, had the Apaches on their heels all night, effectively orchestrating the Dragons offensive and defensive with extreme precision. Scoring help came from Shannon Shorter, who poured in 15 points, and Nafis Richardson, who added another 13 points, which effectively buried the Apaches.
TJC did make a run at the game late in the second half. With his team down 15 points and 5:46 left to play in the second half, coach Marquis had his team start pressuring the ball with an effective full-court press.
The Dragons looked confused and Tyler took advantage of their opportunity cutting the 15-point lead in half in just two minutes.
But on their next possession, the Apaches missed a crucial jumper from three-point land with Paris grabbing the defensive board and getting fouled on the other end of the court. The Dragons sunk both free throw attempts, which gave them a 10-point lead and they never looked back.
“This tournament will be won by the team who is the most mentally prepared,” Marquis said before the game. Unfortunately that was not the TJC Apaches.
The team’s collective effort from the three-point line Sunday night was right at 33 percent, and while their free throw shooting percentage was about 20 points higher, 53 percent shooting from the line did not earn the Apaches a trip to the Region XIV championship game.