SWAC Title Goes To The Valley

By Ivan McDowell
Updated: March 17, 2008

BIRMINGHAM — Carl Lucas buried two free throws in the last second that lifted second-seeded Mississippi Valley State to a 59-58 over fourth-seeded Jackson State. The victory was the Delta Devils 10th straight to close the season and gives them the automatic birth in the NCAA Tournament.

Play opens Thursday where MVSU is a 16-seeded lamb in the South Region and will play top-seeded lion Memphis. “Last year’s game was on my mind,” said Lucas. “It came down to me at the end and I kept my composure and knocked them down.”

Valley overcame 24 points by Darrion Griffin and was outscored by 10, 28-18, in the paint, yet the Tigers largest lead of the game was just three with under a minute to play. The Delta Devils had just Chris Watson (10 points) in double figures, but had six other players contribute at least five points.

It was a total team effort. “This is the second time we’ve played them in the last two weeks,” MVSU Coach James Green noted. “My guys have worked hard all year and our run has been magnificent.”

Jackson State only has to look to the free throw line if they want to know why they lost. The Tigers went to the line 27 times, but connected on only 18; which easily could have propelled them to victory.

Couple that with them outscoring Valley 32-25 in the second half and you see why JSU is disappointed. “We could have sealed the victory if we could have made those free throws,” stated Jackson State Coach Tevester Anderson.

“I give credit to Valley though; I thought our guys played well, but just came up short.” Jackson State’s Catraiva Givens put the Tigers up 58-56 with 27.3 seconds left. Stanford Speech made one of two free throws for the Delta Devils to draw them within one and Watson kept the possession alive with an offensive rebound.

The Tigers (13-20) reached the final after beating fifth-seed Southern, then upsetting top-seeded Alabama State. The Delta Devils (19-15) defeated Grambling State, Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Jackson State for the league crown.