No. 2 Tarleton State is headed to its fifth straight Lone Star Conference Championship final. Now the Texans focus on trying to win their second straight crown.
De'Andre Upchurch racked up 25 points and Chuck Guy added 19 along with nine assists and five rebounds to lead Tarleton (26-2) to a 84-72 victory over Texas A&M-Commerce (19-9) in a tournament semifinal at Allen Event Center Friday night.
Anyone who has followed the LSC in recent seasons won't be surprised who the Texans meet in the final. Midwestern State dominated Angelo State 82-63 in the earlier semifinal. The arch-rivals meet for the 26th time in 10 years at 3 p.m. Saturday.
Tarleton trailed 40-37 at the intermission, but outscored A&M-Commerce 47-32 in the second half. The key stretch was a quick 10-0 run that lasted just two minutes and gave the Texans a 51-45 advantage with 14:53 remaining. Tashawn Mabry scored five during the run, hitting three free throws after being fouled shooting from beyond the arc then flushing home a dunk off a steal and assist by Upchurch.
Guy tied the single-season assists record with his 154th of the year. He tied Roderic Brown from back in 1989-90.
"I've said it all year. He's a very special player. You just don't find many players who can distribute the ball the way Chuck can, and also score the ball the way he does," Tarleton head coach Lonn Reisman said. "That's why I believe he's the best point guard in the country."
Tarleton shot 50 percent for the game, including 54.5 percent in the big second half. Tashawn Mabry came off the bench to provide a third double-digit scorer with 11.
The Texans rotated big men against Lion standout LaDon Carnegie in the second half and held him to just two free throws with 2:09 remaining after he scored 12 in the opening half. He and Kameron Price each netted 11 to lead the Lions, and Tyrie Wooten had 12.
A&M-Commerce shot just 40.8 percent from the floor including only 31.8 percent in the second half.
With Mabry, Jon Cathey-Macklin and Davene Carter all battling illness, Dublin sophomore Jakob Damstra provided 11 big minutes off the bench and scored five points. He set a screen that freed Guy for a runner and a late 12-point lead.
An illness kept Damstra at the team hotel during Tarleton's 89-70 quarterfinal victory over West Texas A&M Wednesday.
"Jakob has been sick all week and didn't practice until this morning," said Reisman. "But it was huge the way he stepped up tonight when we needed him. We had guys get in foul trouble and Jakob came in and I didn't feel like we missed a beat with him on the floor. He's a very smart player, and I feel like he energized us tonight."
Damstra said it was a thrill helping the Texans on to the final.
"It always feels good to help and contribute to the team, and it was a good game so it was even more fun," Damstra said. "When I'm on the floor I just give 100 percent of what I got and do everything I can to help."
"It's always fun playing here," he added concerning the tournament as a whole. "It didn't feel right being back at the hotel for the first game, so I was glad to get back out there in a big game."
The final is a rubber match after Tarleton and Midwestern split their regular season battles. Tarleton won 83-81 at MSU, but the Mustangs avenged the defeat with a 77-75 overtime victory in Stephenville. Two points is the average margin of the final 25 meetings between the teams, with Midwestern winning 13 and Tarleton 12.
Tarleton beat the Mustangs 53-50 in last year's final.