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By MITCH LUCAS
Kilgore News Herald
TYLER — Trinity Valley Community College came ultra close to pulling a big upset Thursday afternoon in the Region XIV Conference men’s basketball tournament, almost knocking off top-seeded Kilgore College.
But “almost” only counts in two things, and college basketball isn’t one of them.
KC got a pair of free throws with 11 seconds left by Erick Diouf, committed a late turnover, and then held on as Trinity Valley’s last-second shot missed for a 63-61 quarterfinals win.
The Rangers, of course, are already in the NJCAA National Tournament in Hutchinson, Kan., beginning March 18, by virtue of winning the conference’s regular-season championship. But coach Brian Hoberecht set a goal for his team of winning the conference tourney title, and possibly securing a top-eight seed in the national tourney.
Being a part of that top eight would allow KC to have a first-round bye in the 24-team, single-elimination event.
In Thursday’s quarterfinal at UT-Tyler, the Rangers got all they could handle from eighth-seeded Trinity Valley (20-12). KC took the lead away from the Cardinals early, but then TVCC stormed back. The game’s final two minutes saw the lead change back and forth between the teams, and then two ties, once at 59-all, then again at 61-all.
Diouf tied it at 59 with a bucket with 2:28 left, and then teammate Lonnie McClanahan put KC in front, 61-59, with just 1:56 remaining.
TVCC was weakened in the final moments when leading scorer Carl Porter fouled out. Still, it was anyone’s game with the score tied at 61, 20-plus seconds left after Trinity Valley’s Tremaine Parker hit two free throws.
KC got the ultimate break. Trinity Valley fouled Diouf with 11.3 seconds remaining. Diouf hit one free throw, breaking the tie and putting the Rangers up 62-61. Diouf actually missed the second free throw, but TVCC was called for a lane violation and Diouf got another chance.
He hit the retry, and gave the Rangers a two-point lead, 63-61.
With four seconds left, Trinity Valley made a shot to tie the game, but it was waived off by officials due to an offensive foul.
The Cardinals got one last chance when KC turned the ball over with two seconds to play. But a three-point attempt by Parker was off the mark at the buzzer and KC secured the win, their third win in as many tries against Trinity Valley this season.
KC had four players in double figures. Diouf had 12 points. Maurice Taylor, McClanahan and Quinton Upshur each had 10. Kalif Wright had five, and Matt Gamberoni, Chinedu Amajoyi and Nardi Bogues each had four. Michael Eneh and Chris Gracela each had two.
For TVCC, Porter led the way with 16. Tyler Corley added 12 points, and Karon Phillips and Tim Allen had 11 points apiece.