The Sam Houston State University Bearkats won a double overtime thriller 86-84 over the UT-A Mavericks in the first round of the SLC tournament on Tuesday night. Unlikely hero John Gardiner hit a mid-range jumper in the corner with four seconds left in the second overtime to put the Kats ahead permanently. The Mavs’ Steven Thomas desperation attempt from mid-court did not drop and the “Kardiac Kats” live to fight another day.
The win means that the Kats and the Jacks will battle it out under the Coppertop for a second time this season. The game is tonight at 7 p.m. at Johnson Coliseum.
The game was back and forth, with the Mavs having the edge. But it was the defense of the Kats, notably Kelvin Williams and John Gardiner, that kept Sam Houston in till the very end.
“These guys are really good defensively,” said Coach Marlin of Williams and Gardiner. “I’d go to the bank with these two kids.”
Near the end of the first overtime, with the Kats trailing by one, Williams stole the ball from Steven Thomas. On the other end of the floor, Gardiner tied it up for the Kats.
“My defensive game has always been my offensive game,” said Williams. “Earlier in the game, I didn’t do my assignments right. I needed to redeem myself, so I did what I could do and stole the ball in crunch time.”
Williams finished with three steals and three blocks. Gardiner mailed in a double-double with 18 points and 13 rebounds. Chris Jordan led the Kats with 21 points while Ryan Bright and Shamir McDaniel both had nine.
Near the end of the second overtime, Williams came up big again stealing the ball from Anthony Vereen with 21 seconds left. On the next possession, Gardiner put the final nail in the coffin.
“There was no hesitation. It was a do-or-die situation with the clock running down,” said Gardiner of his last second shot. “Being that open I was confident I could make the shot. It’s something I work on in practice.”
The win means that SHSU gets to battle Stephen F. Austin one last time this season. Last week, the Kats were stunned by a last second three pointer by SLC “Freshman of the Year” Josh Alexander.
Also tonight, Northwestern State will battle Lamar on the other end of the SLC tournament bracket. A Northwestern win would mean that they host the conference championship on Saturday.
Johnson Coliseum was rowdy Tuesday and they are expecting that same tonight against SFA.