Sunday , Mar , 12 , 2006 C.Y. Ellis

Demons and Bearkats meet for Southland championship

(Sports Network) – The 2006 Southland Conference Tournament title is up for
grabs, as the top-seeded Northwestern State Demons take on the second-seeded
San Houston State Bearkats. The Demons opened tournament play with a solid
75-61 victory over eighth-seeded Texas-San Antonio, and then moved into
the championship round with an 80-66 win over sixth-seeded Lamar. The
Demons are extremely tough to beat at home, going 28-2 since the beginning of
last season, and that includes a 13-0 mark at the Prather Coliseum this
year.

As for the Bearkats, they have won five of their last six games and that
includes tournament wins over Texas-Arlington (86-84) in double-overtime, and
Stephen F. Austin State (78-72). Sam Houston State finished the year with a
solid 22-8 overall mark, which included an 11-5 record in conference
action. The Bearkats won the Southland title back in 2003, but the team
is an even 7-7 all-time in this postseason gathering. Sam Houston State
was the only team able to defeat Northwestern State in league play this
season, posting a 77-68 victory over the Demons. Despite the loss,
Northwestern State holds a narrow 25-23 in the all-time series.

Sam Houston State has played extremely well this season, especially at the
offensive end where it is averaging 74.1 ppg on 45.8 percent shooting from the
field. The team has turned it up another notch here in the postseason, netting
82.0 ppg so far in the tournament, and in their semifinal-round victory over
Stephen F. Austin, the Bearkats shot 48.0 percent from the field en route to a
78-point performance. The team made 8-of-20 shots from long range in the win,
and connected on 22-of-32 shots from the foul line. Jejuan Plair poured in 29
points in the victory, while Ryan Bright tallied 20 points to go along with 12
rebounds. Chris Jordan chipped in 10 points, while John Gardiner posted nine
points and nine boards.

On the season, Jordan leads the team with 14.4 ppg, while Plair checks in
with 12.2 ppg. Bright puts up 11.3 ppg for the Bearkats and is also averaging
a team-best 7.9 rpg.

The Demons have been tremendous at both ends of the floor this season, and
that strong play has continued in this tournament, as they are averaging 77.5
ppg during the postseason, while surrendering just 63.5 ppg. In their
semifinal-round victory over Lamar, the Demons held the Cardinals to a meager
33.3 percent shooting effort, which included a 6-of-19 showing from long
range. Offensively, Northwestern State shot 43.5 percent from the floor and
connected on 15-of-20 shots from the foul line. Clifton Lee led the way with
12 points, while Tyronn Mitchell added 10 points and 10 assists. Luke Rogers
also chipped in 10 points in the victory.

Lee was the only player to average double-digit points throughout the year for
Northwestern State, as the forward is netting 13.9 ppg to go with his 6.5 rpg.

NWESTERNST SAMHOUSTON