Last-second 3-pointer sinks men’s basketball to another loss

Coach Nelson Haggerty says there were positives to take from fifth straight defeat


Sharome Burton

Gilbert Thomas, general studies junior, clutches ball under pressure as Terrell Wilson, kinesiology freshman (right), and Elijah Lee, mass communication junior, look on. Photo by Sharome Burton. Feb. 2.

Just fractions of a second made all the difference on Feb. 2 as men’s basketball was condemned to a heart-breaking 81-80 home defeat at the hands of Eastern New Mexico.

The men were within sight of a memorable scalp that would have stopped a four-game losing streak, but it was snatched away when ENM guard Zach Parker nailed a three-pointer with 0.7 seconds on the clock. That shot the home side to fifth straight defeat. No other teams in the Lone Star Conference have experienced as many consecutive losses.

Head coach Nelson Haggerty said closing-off games late has been a recurring problem for the side.

“That’s been the deal all season-long for us – finishing off games. We still turned the ball over a lot. A lot of it was unforced. They killed us on the glass – those were the biggest points of the game,” Haggerty said. “We did a great job guarding them for the majority of the game but they got second-chance points.”

In fact, it was the third close defeat in the past five games, following a 72-67 loss at Angelo State on Jan. 26 and a narrow 71-70 defeat at Cameron on Jan. 15. It was also the third loss decided in under three seconds this season. Haggerty, into his eighth year as head coach, said he had never experienced a season like this one but it could prove to be a teaching moment for the team.

“No, I haven’t [experienced a season like this]. I know we had some tough games last year but to lose some of these games like we’re losing… But you know what? With all the winning that we’ve done here, I’ve told our guys in the locker room that there’s something we’re supposed to be getting from this,” Haggerty said. “We’ve got to learn from it and grow – we have to stay committed to what we’re doing and some of the greatest things in life happen at the darkest moments.”

Despite the loss, Haggerty said he was pleased with how the team bounced back from a heavy 87-62 defeat to West Texas A&M on Thursday, Jan 31.

“I feel great about how they responded,” Haggerty said. “I wasn’t quite sure what we would get out of our guys today after West Texas. I saw some committed guys out there fighting for each other.”

Gilbert Thomas, general studies junior and center, epitomized the fighting spirit that night, registering 10 points and 11 rebounds, as well as a crucial steal and subsequent turnover in the last three seconds of the game.

“Man, there were a lot of tough plays at the end of the game. We tried to stay together, tried to stay positive, come out here with a defensive mindset to get important stops so we could win the game,” Thomas said. “I was just thinking about how important it was for us to stay together at the end of the game and finish the big plays when they’re given to us and just take care of everything to get a victory.”

Thomas said it was important for the team to refocus its efforts on improving their 2-9 LSC record.

“Just practice. It all starts in practice, man. In practice, we stay together, stay committed, stay with a winning mindset, stay selfless and we’ll do it,” Thomas said.

Haggerty said he believes the locker room atmosphere is still cohesive despite the recent run of poor results.

“It’s good today. It’s tough, but the West Texas locker room was a lot tougher because I think after losing the Angelo State game, it broke us. If we were cracked before, we were broken after that game. We had some infighting,” Haggerty explained.

Morale is heading in the right direction, at least, according to the two-time LSC coach of the year.

“It’s just great now to see a group of guys that are supporting each other and feeling bad about the loss but staying together – that’s how you turn the scale around.”

The performance of his younger players under pressure was encouraging, according to Haggerty. Terrell Wilson, kinesiology freshman, and Tayvion Johnson, freshman, tallied 14 points each in their increased roles.

“For both, it’s one of the reasons why we brought them here. They’re such great team guys but they’re just confident – they make plays, they don’t get discouraged by missing a shot, they work hard on their game and for those guys – for the future of this program – to see these significant minutes and to produce, it bodes really well for us.”