High hopes scratched by unseen ending

What was first a bad thought became a shocking reality Thursday night when the Sam Houston Bearkats lost in the first round of the Southland Conference tournament.

For a third straight year the Bearkats have failed to make it to the finals of the SLC tournament, this time taking an upset loss to the sixth-seeded University of Texas San Antonio.

A look back at the entire season shows that, if nothing else, the Bearkats had a great overall season.

“We were picked to finish third in our division,” said head coach Bob Marlin. “But we won our division and shocked a lot of people.”

The Bearkats (18-12,12-4) defeated University of Texas-San Antonio(19-13 ,8-8) twice during the regular season and have not lost to them in five years. Therefore when paired up with the Roadrunners for a third time they had a seemingly easy shot to make it to the semi-finals.

UTSA, however, had different plans. SHSU was defeated during the game, having their second worst defensive game of the year, the first coming to University of Texas -Arlington — a game they also lost.

The Roadrunners shot an astounding 72 percent in the second half despite that the Bearkats were in the game till the final seconds.

“I think we played good enough to win,” Marlin said. “But sometimes teams just get hot, and they did.”

The season, which to some may read as a loss, in reality reads well.

The Bearkats lost their top two scorers and top two rebounders after last season and would be fighting an uphill battle.

This young team, who was barraged early in the season with teams from the Big 12 and Sun Belt as well as six non conference road games responded quite well.

After starting the season 6-7, the Bearkats became the little team that could. It just did not occur before a heartbreaking loss to start the conference.

For the first conference game of the year, the Kats were pitted against SLC favorite and eventual tournament representatives Stephen F. Austin. With just seconds remaining on the clock, the Bearkats missed a crucial layup, falling to the tone of 75-73.

From that point on, SHSU was unstoppable, winning 12 of their next 15 conference games and losing only one game on the road to UTA.

“We had some new guys on board, with a lot of talent,” said Athletic Director Bobby Williams. “They were young, but we had great coaching, and went on a nice streak. “The team got better and they really have something to build on.”

The Bearkats, a team with little experience and only three seniors, won the West Division and along the way helped Marlin take sole ownership of the school record for most wins by a head coach.

The Bearkats proved to be a daunting opponent and also displayed that they were a force to be reckoned with regardless of what players or coaches they lost.

Marlin said, “In our business there is only one team who ends the season with a win.”

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