Comets sees mixed results in Division III tournament

Photo Courtesy of UTD Athletics



The UTD men’s basketball team qualified for the NCAA Division III Championship Tournament, beating Trinity in the first round before falling to Nebraska Wesleyan to close out their season. The women’s team fell to Ozarks on Feb. 20 in the quarterfinals, bringing their season to an end.

The men’s team fended off a late comeback effort by LeTourneau in the semi-finals, winning 93-85 on Feb. 23 and advancing to the title game. After trailing by six points with just 17 seconds left, the Comets made a miraculous comeback of their own, culminating in a buzzer-beater by senior guard Donovan Souter to beat UMHB 78-77. It was the Comets’ fifth ASC title and their first since the 2018-19 season. Sophomore center Austin Page had his first career double-double in the finale, and Souter netted a team-high 25 points. Head coach Jared Fleming has now achieved an ASC title at UTD as a player (2009, 2010), assistant coach (2019) and head coach (2024). Souter said his last second shot in the ASC title game was the best moment of his career.

“Luke Kiser was dribbling down the court and he passed it to me. I only thought of one thing and that was just to shoot it and I knew it was going in,” Souter said. “I just felt surreal and excited.”

The men’s team then advanced to the NCAA tournament, where they beat Trinity 67-63 March 2. A late three-pointer from Souter denied Trinity a comeback victory. The Comets failed to maintain the early lead they had built and were eliminated in the second round by NWU 77-63 March 3.

Five Comets made All-ASC Men’s Basketball Teams. Souter made the First Team, and guard Luke Kiser was selected to the Second Team as well as being named the Defensive Player of the Year. Center Austin Page also made the Second Team, and guard Nick Donnelly was an honorable mention. Forward Jordan Balderaz was named in the All-Freshman team.

The women’s team maintained a lead well into the fourth quarter of their first playoff game, but Ozarks made a late run to come out on top 64-60. Sophomore guard Amanda Crowninshield recorded a career-high 22 points. Senior Alex Bowman also had 22 points as well as nine rebounds. The Comets’ hopes for back-to-back ASC titles ended with an elimination earlier than they had hoped, and they finished the season with an overall record of 20-6.

“The bottom line is we just didn’t get it done, and it was disappointing,” women’s head coach Joseph Shotland said. “We just came up short, and we didn’t quite get to where we wanted to get to.”

Fleming expressed pride in his team’s resolve and praised them for their performance in the championship game.

“[The players] just kept fighting, they’re incredibly competitive and they made every right play down the stretch to find a way at the buzzer,” Fleming said. “It was an incredible night.”

Shotland was proud of the progress his team made, as they statistically had the best defense in the conference. However, he acknowledged that they did not meet their goals for the season.

“You have to be resilient in these moments and we just came up short,” Shotland said. “We had beat that team pretty handily twice in the regular season, so a disappointing way to end the year.”

The Comets now look forward to next season, where changes will be made and players will come and go, but they will seek to improve and build upon the successes from this season. As the Comets make the switch to Division II, see the departure of senior contributors and recruit new players to replace them, they face challenges in adjusting.

“The challenge for our group moving forward will be as individuals, how do we get out of our comfort zone in the next eight months until next season and really get better?” Shotland said. “I have a lot of faith that our group will do that and the kids that we bring into next year’s team will have the expectation that everything is gonna be earned in this program.”

The women’s team will look to have a productive offseason by continuing their growth, while the men’s team looks to do the same after a successful season.

“We just need to keep our confidence level where it’s at and keep playing a way that we’re supposed to play,” Souter said. “Keep playing our best basketball and we’ll keep getting the results that we want.”



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