Women take home ASC crown
The women’s basketball team entered the ASC tournament with one of the best records in program history, going 21-4 in the regular season.
After beating Concordia to close out their season on Senior Day on Feb. 21, the Comets took on the Tornados once again to open up their tournament run. After defeating Concordia 59-47 on Feb. 26, UTD faced off against Louisiana College, who they split the regular season series 1-1, the next day.
The Comets got out to a slow start, falling behind 8-0 in the opening minutes. UTD was able to catch up and slow down the Lady Wildcat’s attack in the second half. Still, the period was a slugfest with two ties and three lead changes taking place before Louisiana College was able to tie the game 67-67.
As the game wound down, neither team could find the bottom of the net as turnovers plagued both squads. As the final minute ticked away, senior guard Amber Brown was able to snatch a turnover from the Lady Wildcats with under ten seconds left. As she advanced down the court, head coach Polly Thomason called a timeout to set up a last ditch play.
The ball was inbounded to sophomore forward Micaela Gonzalez, who attempted to put up a shot but passed the ball to senior guard Madi Hess. As she lost her balance, Hess heaved up a Hail Mary shot.
“It went in,” Hess said. “It was nuts. Everyone went crazy.”
The team stormed the court in celebration, but it had to be pulled off as officials reviewed the shot. After a quick review confirmed the play stood, the Comets breathed a sigh of relief as they could finally head to the championship round of the tournament.
In the championship game on Feb. 28, UTD faced off against rival, tournament host and conference favorite UT Tyler, who had only lost once before the whole season. In spite of this, the Comets were able to take the lead right before halftime, never letting the Patriots mount a comeback.
The Comets got hot at the right time by hitting 51.8 percent of their shots, one of its best shooting performances of the season. On defense, they were able to hold Tyler, one of the best three-point shooting teams in the league, to just 4 three pointers on 12 attempts.
As the game came to a close, the players and coaches could finally claim the ASC title they had been seeking all year as they beat Tyler 82-74. Thomason said their loss last year in the semifinals helped to motivate the team all year.
“I think we’re really good at taking losses and learning from them and using them as motivation and using them as learning tools,” she said. “The Hardin-Simmons loss this season really refocused us. I think the Mary Hardin-Baylor loss in the semis of the conference tournament last year refocused our seniors all offseason and all preseason because they don’t want to go out like that. They want to go out with a ring on their finger and that’s what their focus was all year and they worked and worked and worked to make sure that that happened.”
With the win, the Comets earned a hosting seed in the first round of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Division III tournament. They play Saturday at 5:30 against Rhodes College. If they win, they will play again Sunday at 3 p.m. against the winner of the UT Tyler-Southwestern matchup.
“We’re just going one game at a time,” Thomason said. “I thought we did a really good job of that in the tournament. We didn’t look past anybody. We focused on that opponent that was in front of us, and right now, it’s Rhodes.”
Hess, who was the tournament MVP, was named to the All-ASC First Team. She averaged 12.4 points, 7.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game.
Brown was named to the All-ASC Third Team while also getting a spot on the All-Defensive Team. She averaged 10.7 points a game for the Comets, second on the team, while also picking up 4.8 rebounds.
Men fall in first round
After giving up three straight games to cap off the regular season, the men’s basketball team faced an uphill battle heading into the ASC tournament.
With the most losses since 2008, the team snuck into the seventh seed spot with a 16-9 record. Taking on second-seeded Hardin-Simmons on Feb. 26, the Comets came out fighting against in the first half, but they only managed to leave the period with a 30-29 lead.
In the second half, UTD couldn’t find its rhythm. After falling behind 39-34 after an 8-0 HSU run with sixteen minutes left in the game, the Comets couldn’t find a way to take the lead back.
Head coach Terry Butterfield said it was difficult to enter the tournament with three straight losses and expect to wipe the slate clean.
“I think everybody needs momentum,” he said. “At that point, we had sort of lost our momentum. In spite of that, I still felt that we could go over there if we came together and played good basketball. I felt we could go over there and be impactful. It turns out that was not to be the case.”
During the game, UTD had 19 turnovers leading to 32 HSU points. Butterfield said this was the teams biggest problem during the game.
Senior guard Matt Medell, who finished the game with 13 points, said foul trouble and lack of quality play on the defensive side also hurt the team.
“We just really couldn’t get a stop in the second half when we needed to,” he said. “The first half was pretty low scoring and then the second half they scored 48 points on us, which is unacceptable. Our defense really just wasn’t what it needed to be. It couldn’t get any stops.”
Despite falling early in the tournament, four Comets were named to All-ASC teams. Senior guard Rafael Farley, who averaged 21.1 points per game, second in the conference, was named first team All-ASC and was crowned as the Newcomer of the Year. He finished the game against HSU with just 12 points.
Medell, who finished his career as the sixth all-time scorer in program history with 1,060 points, was named third team All-ASC..
Freshmen Caleb Banks and Reagan Keogh were named to the All-Freshman team.