The curse is over.
After losing the last 13 meetings, with one win since 2010, the Sam Houston State Bearkat men’s basketball team finally cracked the win column Thursday night with a 72-63 home win over the Stephen F. Austin State Lumberjacks.
Thursday night’s win over SFA extended SHSU’s win streak to eight games and it means that the Kats remain in sole possession of first place in the Southland Conference. If the Bearkats were to lose, there would have been a three-way tie atop the SLC standings.
“They’ve had number for a little bit,” head coach Jason Hooten said. “You’re a competitor, you want to win the game; but really tonight I was more focused on our team and trying to win the eighth game in a row. [The win over rival SFA] feels just like how it felt in our win over Southeastern Louisiana.”
Johnson Coliseum was loud and rocking for the first matchup of the season between the rival schools. The Coliseum saw a season-high in attendance, seating 3,034 people. Hooten appreciates the support for his team and wants to see the seats filled like that for every home game.
“It was awesome,” Hooten said. “I hope they are here next Saturday. It makes you proud to be 17-6 [overall], win eight in a row, 8-2 in your league and be in first place by a game. To be able to play in front of people and show everybody what you have and hopefully they’ll continue to come out.”
In a grind it out first half, the game got off to a slow start the Bearkats led 9-5 with the first and only three pointer in the first half made by senior guard Dakarai Henderson. The Lumberjacks soon took their second lead of the game 13-12 with 11:10 left to play in the first half. With no team getting a huge edge the first half, the Bearkats lead by just four points, 34-30, going into the break.
In the second half, the Kats got off to hot start, pushing the lead to 12. With the game winding down, the Bearkats turned to sophomore guard John Dewey III, hitting a three pointer to give the team energy, but Lumberjack freshman guard Aaron Augustin matched the three with his own, switching the momentum in the Jacks’ favor. However, Dewey was not done. The transfer from Blinn College went down the court and rattled in another three pointer, bringing the season-high crowd to their feet with 10:47 left in the game.
The Bearkats’ other transfer player, junior forward Chris Galbreath Jr., also shined down the stretch. Galbreath slammed in a huge dunk from a great no look pass from Dewey III, but he was called for his second technical foul of the game for snapping the rim with just 5:35 remaining. With 3:35 left on the clock seniors center Aurimas Majauskas, forward Torry Butler and guard Paul Baxter all fouled out in a span of 1:30. A three-pointer, followed by another bucket by SFA junior forward Leon Gilmore III, the Lumberjacks trailed 65-56 with 1:54 left in the game. Stepping up when he was needed, Galbreath made a shot and drew a foul to extend the Bearkats’ lead. Senior guard Jovante’ Spivey stamped the Piney Woods win for SHSU after making a couple of game sealing free throws with just seconds left on the clock.
The Bearkats finished the game with three players scoring in double digits. Dewey III led the way with 19 points, Galbreath Jr. added 12 points, while Henderson notched 10 points. As a team, the Kats shot 42.3 percent from the field (22-52) and 84.6 percent from the charity stripe (22-26).
Dewey III and Galbreath Jr. led the Bearkats to victory in their first Piney Woods game. Henderson said the two stepped up when the team needed them too.
“I feel like they stepped up to the plate,” Henderson said. “They were hyped about this, just like every other game; and I knew with the crowd being the most packed as it’s been all year, they were ready for the competition and the rivalry. They were saying I’m going to do this for you and I felt like they did really good”.
The Bearkats will have a quick turnaround, as the team will look to extend its winning streak on the road against the Abilene Christian Wildcats on Feb. 4. The game will start at 4 p.m.