Trinity Valley head coach Pat Smith has been around the game long enough to know what matters.
As he paced the floor outside the home locker room at Tyler Junior College’s Wagstaff Gymnasium and talked about his team’s 81-69 loss to the Blinn Buccaneers on Friday, he didn’t dance around what, to him, is an obvious fact.
“We’re 26-7 in our last 33 conference games over the past two years, but we’re 0-2 at the regional tournament,” Smith said. “That’s what everyone remembers. It’s frustrating, but that’s just the way it is.”
For the second straight year, an impressive regular season by the Cardinals (21-10) ended in the quarterfinals of the Region XIV Conference Men’s Tournament. It was TVCC’s first game of the tournament after it received a first-round bye by finishing in the top four among conference teams.
Smith was frustrated that his team let an early 9-2 lead turn into a 38-37 deficit by halftime, and he was equally as frustrated that his Cardinals couldn’t seem to find the bottom of the net while Blinn almost couldn’t miss to start the second half.
Miles Dixon’s jumper with 14:38 left gave Blinn (26-6) a 52-40 lead and capped a 14-3 run. Meanwhile, all the Cards had to show for the first eight minutes of the second half was a layup by Dominique Elliot and four free throws.
The Bucs fared much better, hitting seven of 12 shots during that stretch.
“That run really hurt us,” Smith said. “Our defense could have been better, but we weren’t scoring. When you don’t score it’s hard to maintain any consistency.”
Even so, the Cardinals managed to make the Buccaneers sweat just a little bit near the seven-minute mark of the second half. After Titus Rubles nailed a pair of free throws to give Blinn a 13-point lead with 7:40 left, D.D. Scarver broke through heavy pressure and sank a three-pointer to bring the lead back to 10 with 7:07 to go.
Daniel Ehambe then trimmed the deficit to single digits with a three of his own, making it 68-61 with 6:23 left on the clock. Will Bond then helped TVCC pull to within five, 70-65, with 5:02 left.
The Cardinals turned the ball over twice in the final 2:32 with a chance to cut the lead to one possession. Blinn then finished the game out at the free throw line, hitting their final six shots. Blinn was 31-38 from the line.
Scarver finished his TVCC career with 28 points.
“I know a lot of people won’t understand this,” said Smith, noting his team has had to weather suspensions and dismissals — leaving the team with nine players, “but I’m proud of how these guys finished down the stretch.”
BLINN (81) — Miles Dixon 23; Dre Evans 16; Daishon Knight 14; Joel Wright 13; Titus Rubles 10; Craig Smith 4; Shamel Williams 1.
TVCC (69) — D.D. Scarver 28; Dominique Elliot 12; Will Bond 9; Daniel Ehambe 7; Billy Johnson 5; Abdul Ahmed 4; Jaywuan Hill 2; Devon Agusi 2.
Halftime Score: Blinn 38, TVCC 37
Three-Pointers: Blinn (6-14) — Knight 2; Evans 2; Dixon 2. TVCC (7-25) — Scarver 4; Ehambe; Bond; Johnson.
Turnovers: Blinn 14. TVCC 14.
Free Throws: Blinn 31-38 (Evans 8-8). TVCC 20-21 (Scarver 8-8).
Team Fouls: Blinn 19. TVCC 26.
Fouled Out: Blinn-1 (Knight). TVCC-2 (Ehambe, Scarver).
Technical Fouls: Blinn-none. TVCC-none.
Records: Blinn 26-6. TVCC 21-10.
(9) Jacksonville 96, (1) Paris 86
(5) Blinn 81, (4) TVCC 69
(2) Lamar St. 62, (7) Tyler 58
(6) Navarro 78, (3) San Jacinto 69
Jacksonville vs. Blinn, 6 p.m.
Lamar St. vs. Navarro, 8 p.m.
(1) TVCC vs. (4) LMC, 1 p.m.
(2) Tyler vs. (6) Blinn, 3 p.m.