The Blinn College men’s basketball team (23-9, 11-8) is headed to the Region XIV championship game after defeating Jacksonville College, 91-83, Friday night in the Centenary College Gold Dome.
With the win, the Buccaneers will compete against the winner of tonight’s game between Angelina College and Navarro College for the Region XIV title on Saturday, March 7, at 7 p.m.
“Obviously we are very excited for the opportunity to represent Region XIV in the championship game,” said Scott Schumacher, Blinn head coach. “I thought our guys showed a lot of resiliency and toughness tonight. At this time of the year, the games aren’t pretty, but it is just about who is going to have enough mental toughness to get through it, and I thought our guys showed that tonight.”
AJ Rainey led Blinn’s offense with 20 points, while Azariah Seay followed with 18 and four 3-pointers. Markus Vallien and Tristan Ikpe each pitched in 11 points. On defense, Pedro Castro led with nine rebounds and Ikpe followed with eight.
Blinn and Jacksonville played a close first half as Blinn led by just five points at the break, 40-35. Seay led Blinn’s offense in the opening half, scoring 12 points, and delivering two back-to-back 3-pointers to keep Blinn ahead 35-27 when Jacksonville got close. The Jaguars built an 18-17 advantage until Calvin Carpenter’s two free throws gave Blinn a 19-18 lead for good in the half. Vallien made back-to-back 2-pointers to keep Blinn on top 27-20 and Seay’s pair of 3-pointers were made in the final five minutes of the half. Jacksonville threatened with a 5-0 run to gain on Blinn, 36-35, but Seay and Ryan Pollard went 4-for-4 at the free throw line to give Blinn a five-point cushion to conclude the half.
Rainey and Ikpe led Blinn’s offense in the second half by combining for 29 points. Jacksonville worked its way within one-point of Blinn, but Uriel Velis and Rainey combined for three free throws to keep the Buccaneers ahead 51-47 at the 13:57 mark. Once again, the Jaguars crept behind 53-52, but a rebound and 2-pointer by Ikpe and a 3-pointer by Rainey kept Blinn ahead. Jacksonville finally tied the game 60-60 with 8:54 on the clock, but never took the lead as Rainey and Nic Tata combined for the next four points. Seay sunk his fourth 3-pointer in the game to pull Blinn up 71-66 and Castro hit one for Blinn to lead 78-70. Jacksonville kept fighting with a 3-pointer to gain on Blinn 89-83 in the final second, but Vallien scored Blinn’s final two points at the free throw line to put the Jaguars away.