HUTCHINSON, Kan — The State Fair Community College men’s basketball team needed overtime following a controversial end to regulation and several minutes of deliberation Tuesday, to escape the first round of the NJCAA national tournament with a 111-99 win over Shelton State.
Up by three points with 2.5 seconds left, Shelton State inbounded the ball to midcourt and immediately called a timeout. The referees met at the scorer’s table to check the clock and reset it from 1.5 seconds to 2.0. The next inbounds play went to Albert Lynch III who dribbled twice, then threw up a shot while falling to the ground. Officials convened again. After initially indicating that the foul had been on the floor before the shot – which would have been two free throws – they determined that Lynch was fouled in the act of shooting and before the buzzer went off, giving him three free throws. He sank all three and sent the game to overtime.
“That foul they called at the end I thought was a really bad call,” said State Fair coach Kevin Thomas. “Luckily our guys handle adversity really well. I thought they came out in the overtime and got stops and made free throws to seal the victory.”
In the extra period, State Fair scored the first six points to take command and pull away for the win. Joe Thomasson and Kedar Edwards got baskets off penetration, and Thomasson added a pair of free throws. On the other end, Shelton State missed on a drive, a 3-pointer and a jumper. Thomasson and Kevin Punter added free throws, and Edwards put the exclamation mark on the win with a dunk.
“We face adversity every day,” Thomasson said. “We get after it in practice. We get after it in games, late in games. We are a team. We play better from behind. I don’t know why.”
The Roadrunners needed a rally at the end of a back-and-forth second half to get into that position. Down by one with 29 seconds left, Thomasson dribbled into trouble but quickly called timeout. Inbounding the ball from under the basket following the timeout, he found Deron “Bubba” Hill wide open in the lane. Hill immediately went up for a shot but was fouled and made both free throws to put the Roadrunners in front.
“It was originally for Dre (Alexander),” Thomasson said of the inbounds play. “It’s called ‘42.’ Dre comes off a double stagger to hit the three, but when Bubba set the first screen, he slipped and got wide open. Bubba’s great at creating body contact. He told me right before that, ‘watch me, I’m going to be wide open.’ I hit him and he made both free throws.”
State Fair trailed several times in the second half, including an 83-77 Shelton State edge with four minutes to play. The Roadrunners answered, getting a 3-pointer from Thomasson and a drive from Hill to cut the lead to one while the Bucs turned the ball over twice.
The lead went from one point to three and back again several times as the teams traded baskets before Thomasson picked up a steal and fed Punter for a layup to put State Fair ahead 88-87 with 55 seconds left in regulation. Shelton State retook the lead on free throws before Thomasson found Hill who got to the line to put State Fair ahead once again.
Shelton State had a chance to retake the lead with a long 3-pointer, but the shot from Cole Stockton was off line. Thomasson took the rebound and sank two free throws with 2.5 seconds left to set up Shelton’s last chance in regulation.
“It was either now or never,” Thomasson said. “We’ve been down to better teams. We keep our composure no matter what. I kept telling my team I wasn’t ready to go home yet.”
State Fair trailed by four at the half, but came out with a 12-2 run to open the second, punctuated by a Punter steal and dunk.
Shelton State answered. A 3-pointer and a pair of layups put the Bucs back in the lead 55-54. The lead traded hands a few times after that before Lynch hit back-to-back 3-pointers as part of an 8-0 Bucs run.
Alexander brought the Roadrunners back within two with a 3-pointer, but Lynch came right back with another 3-pointer and Jalen Thompson hit a fade-away shot in the lane while being fouled.
“It felt like we really struggled to get stops,” Thomas said. “We struggled to string stops together, but then in the last five minutes, we started to get stops and claw back into the game.”
Thomasson finished the game with 29 points and 11 assists. Punter had 28 points. Edwards had 25 points and eight rebounds. Alexander added 13 points. Hill chipped in nine points and five steals.
Lynch led Shelton State with 30 points, including hitting 5 of 11 3-point tries. As a team, the Bucs shot 10 of 31 from beyond the arc.
“They’ve got good guards,” Thomas said. “Lynch made some shots that were very well guarded. Our guys got there and got a hand in his face, and he just made shots. You play good teams at this time of year, and they will make tough shots.”
In the first half, Shelton State outrebounded the Roadrunners 25-16, including 10 offensive rebounds. Brandon Moss had 17 points in the half with many coming on putback dunks. Moss had two more offensive boards and 11 points in the second half, as State Fair outrebounded Shelton State 24-18 in the second half and overtime.
“We just did a poor job of boxing out,” Thomas said. “I thought when the shot went up, we would just kind of stand there and watch. I thought in the second half we did a much better job of getting to him and making sure we kept him off the glass.”
An early start
The game began at 10 a.m. at the Hutchinson Sports Arena, the earliest starting time for State Fair this season.
“We tried to come out and be ready,” Edwards said. “We got up at 7 a.m. It was hard, but by the second half, we were going and we defended and we got stops.”
Things started well for the Roadrunners in the first half. A 3-pointer by Edwards and a Thomasson-to-Edwards alley-oop helped the Roadrunners take an 8-4 lead.
That lead stood up until Shelton State hit back-to-back 3-pointers and a jumper to take the lead (12-8). Alexander and Moss traded 3-pointers, and a Hill steal led to an Alexander dunk. Shelton answered with another 3-pointer to take an 18-13 lead, then added another 3-pointer off an offensive rebound.
State Fair put together a 7-0 run with a Punter jumper, an Edwards-to-Punter alley-oop and an Edwards 3-pointer, but Shelton State rallied again. State Fair tied the game at 33 before Shelton State went on another run, then tied it at 38 before another Shelton State run ended the half.
State Fair moves on to the second round where it will face No. 3 seed Chipola (Fla.) at 6 p.m. Wednesday.