JACKSONVILLE – This one hurt.
The No. 8-ranked and top seed Trinity Valley Community College Cardinals saw a 22-game winning streak end in the final 10 seconds Saturday at John Alexander Gymnasium.
The team that gave them the only other loss in the Kilgore Rangers in the opening game of the year saw two of three free throws from KJ Jenkins give them the 68-67 Region XIV championship victory.
“It is not that tough honestly because that is a really good team,” TVCC head coach Mark Leslie said. “It would be like you lost to a good ball club and that happens. You have to take your hat off to Kilgore. That is a good ball club that is well coached, and they deserve to be in the national tournament. I think they are one of the better teams in the country.”
The game was the Region XIV tournament championship with an automatic trip to Hutchinson, Kansas on the line. TVCC (22-2) now goes to the national tournament with an at-large bid and a ninth national tournament appearance after Sunday’s selection show.
“I think we earned a trip to the national tournament at 22-2 and No. 8 in the country and we lost in the regional championship game so I think that will work out for us,” Leslie said. “It will be an honor anyway you can get to Hutch, so it will be an honor.”
With time running out, Dashawn Davis had a chance to win the game on a 3-pointer, but it just went long with no time remaining on the clock.
“It was Deshawn and Trevon (Fuller) both on that play,” Leslie said. “We had Trevon coming out on the corner, and Deshawn coming on the elbow, so I told Darry (Moore) who was taking the ball out to find whoever was open.”
The Cardinals split the regular season contest with the Rangers. Kilgore gave Trinity Valley its only loss of the year in the opener, 71-69, at Cardinal Gym. TVCC won the rematch 74-65 in Kilgore.
Midway through the second half, TVCC went on a 9-0 run to take a 51-43 lead. Kilgore (18-5) fought back and tied the game at 65 with 2:30 remaining on a jumper by Stephan Morris.
“I mean they hit a couple of big shots. We didn’t make a few baskets that we should have during that little run that we were on,” Leslie said. “We could have shut the run that they made had we made a couple of baskets in the process that we normally make.”
The Cardinals scored just two points the final 5:10 of the game on a fast break layup by Trevon Fuller.
TVCC was led by Davis with 14 points, five rebounds and five assists, while Anderson Mirambeaux finished with 13 points, eight rebounds, one assist and one steal. Jakevion Buckley had 13 points, one rebounds, two assists and one steal and Fuller finished with 11 points and one rebound to round out the double figure scorers.
Leslie said even with the loss, teams better be ready for the Cardinals April 19-24 in Hutchinson, Kansas.
“I feel like we got the kind of ball club that can go out and beat anybody on any night,” Leslie said. “If we get to the field of 24, I like our chances every night. We need to work on everything, and when you go from Jan. 20 to now going 22 games and win, that air coming out of the balloon helps in my opinion to get back to where we were. We worked so hard to win every game and it was tough on us, so I am hoping this loss before the national tournament can give us a new life.”
NOTE: Mirambeaux and Davis were named to the All-Tournament team for the Cardinals following the game. … With 3:50 remaining in the first half, Fuller became the career 3-point leader at TVCC as he hit his 152nd 3-pointer to give them a 25-24 lead. … Saturday’s contest was the first time since 2013-14 season that the Lady Cardinals and Cardinals have appeared in the championship games of the Region XIV tournament. That year, the Cardinals lost to Paris, 74-63, in Tyler.