JACKSONVILLE — All season Tyler Junior College basketball coach Mike Marquis said his team was built for March.
His Apaches proved him right this week in the Region XIV Basketball Tournament.
Led by tournament MVP Dominique Shaw's 17 points, No. 7 TJC scored a 72-65 win over top seed San Jacinto on Saturday at Jacksonville ISD Gymnasium.
What it means is the Apaches are headed to the national tournament March 16-21 in Hutchinson, Kansas.
It is the first national trip for TJC since 1996. The Apaches has won two national titles.
"I am so proud of these kids," TJC coach Mike Marquis said. "... We are taking quality, quality kids to nationals."
With former Apache and current Chicago Bulls all-star Jimmy Butler looking on, TJC kept the high scoring Ravens at bay. San Jac was averaging 96.7 points per game.
Joining Shaw on the all-tournament team were TJC teammates Faith Pope and Dale Jones; San Jacinto's Jevonlean Hedgeman and Willie Mangum; and Angelina's Deckie Johnson.
Pope continued his outstanding play, scoring 21 points for the Apaches. Jones added 13.
The Apaches led for most of the game, but it got tight down the stretch.
San Jacinto's Naiel Smith scored on a driving layup to trim the TJC lead to 62-60 with 3:35 left in the game.
The Apaches responded by working the shot clock. Point guard Ronnie Stacy drove to the basket for a shot and a 64-60 advantage.
After a San Jac timeout, Jones rebounded the Ravens' miss. Tyler worked the clock down and Shaw drove toward the basket where he was fouled. The sophomore from Lufkin calmly swished both free throws and Tyler led 66-60 with 1:19 to play.
The Ravens (28-5) hustled down court and Magnum missed another 3-pointer, but Candido Sa, a freshman from Lisbon, Portugal, rebounded the miss and was fouled as he scored. He hit the charity shot and San Jac was within three, 66-63, with 59.1 to go.
After a Tyler timeout, the Apaches worked the clock again and Darryl Stewart was fouled driving to the basket with the shot clock under five seconds. He made 1 of 2 free throws and TJC was leading 67-63 with 39.1 remaining.
On the ensuing possession, San Jacinto was working the ball around, but Smith stepped out bounds. The Ravens immediately fouled and Shaw made one free throw for a 68-63 advantage.
After San Jacinto got possession on a jump ball, Michael Carey scored to cut TJC's lead to 68-65 with 6.4 seconds remaining.
In the final seconds, Jones was 4 of 4 at three throw line to seal the victory.
The Apaches are headed to Hutch and now San Jacinto and Trinity Valley will have to hope for an at-large bid.
Region XIV Tournament
Tyler 72, San Jacinto 65
TYLER — Levi Yancy, 0; Dominique Shaw, 17; Faith Pope, 21; Ronnie Stacy, 6; Dale Jones, 13; Tyler Miller, 9; Ikenna Okwarubizie, 2; Darryl Stewart, 4; John Paul, 0.
SAN JACINTO — Naiel Smith, 8; Candido Sa, 6; Jevonlean Hedgeman, 8; Willie Mangum, 17; Michael Hunter, 8; Michael Carey, 9; Ilker Er, 1; Quincy Jackson, 8.
THREE POINT GOALS — TJC (4-15): Jones, Pope (3). SJ (6-29): Hunter, Carey, Mangum (2), Jackson (2).
HALFTIME SCORE — Tied 33-33
RECORDS — Tyler 24-8, San Jacinto 28-5.