Breakout Season for UAFS Hoops

When the Lions released their recruiting class and schedule for the 2013-2014 season, excitement was in the air. With the additions of freshmen Seth Youngblood and Alex Cooper and Division I transfer Kenny Martin, combined with a strong core of returners and seniors, the Lions were poised for a breakout season.

First Stretch (6-0)

@ Texas Christian University (Exh.)     L    74-81

Central Baptist College        W    116-61

Ouachita Baptist            W    88-79

Henderson State            W    84-77

@ Missouri Southern            W    74-72

#10 Northeastern State        W    83-49

@ South Dakota School of Mines    W    101-87

Seth Youngblood started his career as a Lion with a bang. After scoring 16 in an exhibition vs. Division I TCU, Youngblood scored 24, 19, 9, 14, 12, and 23 in the first six games as the Lions went 6-0 to start the season. Dusan Stojanovic recorded a double-double (22 points and 10 rebounds) and Mytaa’h Crawford poured in 19 points to go along with Youngblood’s 24 in a blowout win over CBC. The Lions then swept Ouachita Baptist and Henderson State in the Lion’s Classic. Bo Franklin and Kenny Martin both had double-doubles against Henderson State. After defeating Missouri Southern on the road at the buzzer and dismantling 10th ranked NSU, the Lions became nationally ranked for the first time. After defeating SD School of Mines, the Lions were ranked 16th in the country by the NABC.

Rough Road (1-3)

@ Angelo State            L    69-71

@ Arkansas Little Rock (Exh.)    L    74-88

Ecclesia College            W    122-80

@ St. Mary’s (TX)            L    89-96

@ Texas A&M International        L    69-71

The loss of Junior Forward Dusan Stojanovic to a season-ending ACL injury in the win over NSU proved costly as the highly ranked Lions lost 3 of their next four games. Seth Youngblood scored 17 in their contest against Angelo State, but late turnovers and technical fouls hurt the Lions in the end. The Lions lost an exhibition match-up with UALR despite 15 points from Sophomore Forward Kenny Martin. UAFS would home to host their 4th Annual Toy Toss game vs. Ecclesia College, with 18 points from Martin, 17 points each from Miha Glavas and Bo Franklin, and 14 points from redshirt freshman LJ Ross in the 122-80 route of the Royals. Also, Xavier McClish posted his only double-digit assist game of the season. The Lions then hit the road to take on their two conference rivals - St Mary’s and Texas A&M International. Against St. Mary’s, the Lions relied heavily on the play of their guards. Jake Toupal and Alex Cooper scored 16 points each and Seth Youngblood and Blake Branham added 15 points each, but the Lions fell short against their arch-rival. The following game, the Lions lost on a late shot against the TAMIU Dustdevils.

Lions Get Hot (8-1)

Oklahoma Christian                W    86-76

Dallas Baptist                    W    74-56

@ Oklahoma Panhandle State        W    84-68

@ Newman                    W    83-78

@ Rogers State                W    80-78

McMurry                    W    75-66

St. Edward’s                    W    77-72

@ University of Texas of the Permian Basin    W    83-80

@ Lubbock Christian                L    82-85

It didn’t take long for the Lions to get back to their winning ways. Seth Youngblood had a huge game for the Lions in their win over OC, scoring 24 points in the double-digit win. In a big road win over OPSU, Blake Branham scored 17 points and Kenny Martin registered a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds. The following game, Martin went off. Martin scored a career-high 27 points and grabbed 15 rebounds in a win over Newman. Martin earned Heartland Conference Player of the Week honors after the two double-double performances. Against McMurry, Branham had another big performance, scoring 18 points as the Lions won their sixth consecutive game. Kenny Martin also posted another double-double with 15 points and 13 rebounds. Jake Toupal poured in 21 points in the only matchup of the season with St. Edward’s. The Lions then went on the road for two huge tests against UTPB and LCU with a tight battle for the top of the conference between UAFS, St. Mary’s, TAMIU, and UTPB. Corey Copeland’s big first half performance helped the Lions push ahead of UTPB and squeak out a big conference win. The Lions then clashed with the Chaps of Lubbock Christian for the first time.The Lions fell short despite a career-high 28 points from Seth Youngblood, ending their 8 game winning streak.


Revenge Against Rivals (2-0)

Texas A&M International      W  66-63

St. Mary's               W  82-71

Coming into “rivalry” week, there was no doubt that these two games could propel the Lions to their second consecutive Heartland Conference Championship. Against conference leader TAMIU, it was Blake Branham who again stole the show. Branham provided valuable buckets late and added 7 free throws to help the Lions defeat the Dustdevils. Then, the Lions got revenge against St. Mary’s in a big way. Seth Youngblood scored 19 and Jake Toupal added 17 in a double-digit win over the Rattlers.

Final Strech: Regular Season (4-1)

@ Dallas Baptist          L  79-85 (2OT)

@ Oklahoma Christian      W  74-68

Newman University          W  95-91 (OT)

Oklahoma Panhandle State      W  94-64

Rogers State              W  106-102 (OT)

The final stretch of the regular season didn’t start how the Lions would’ have liked. The team had several chances to win in regulation and overtime before falling to Dallas Baptist on the road in double overtime. The next three games, Seth Youngblood took over. Youngblood score 17, 19, and 22 in wins over Oklahoma Christian, Newman, and Oklahoma Panhandle State. McClish also put in 14 points in the win against Oklahoma Christian, in front of his family. Miha Glavas turned in his first double-double of the season (15 points and 14 rebounds) in a overtime win against Newman. Then came Senior Night and on that night senior Jake Toupal would shine. Toupal tied his career high with 26 points and also produced the most memorable moment of the season. With the game tied at 102, Toupal took the ball the length of the court and threw up a shot, connected and was fouled. His four point play gave the Lions their second consecutive Heartland Conference Regular Season Championship. Toupal’s shot was featured on Bleacher Report and has over 5,000 views on YouTube. Jake Toupal brought home some hardware as he earned the Heartland Conference Player of the Week and then later in the week was named Heartland Conference Player of the Year as well as first-team all conference. Seth Youngblood won the Heartland Conference Freshman of the Year and earned a second-team all conference honor. Coach Josh Newman was named the Heartland Conference Coach of the Year.

Post-Season: HC Tournament/NCAA Tournament (0-2)

HC Tournament Semi's: University of Texas of the Permian Basin      L  79-81 (OT)

NCAA Tournament: Midwestern State @ Denver, CO        L  66-72

History was made as the Lions hosted their second consecutive Heartland Conference Tournament. The Lions got a career high 26 points from Freshman Alex Cooper but UTPB connected on a miracle shot to steal the game from UAFS. There was still hope that the Lions would get their ticket to the NCAA Tournament.

On Selection Sunday, there were high hopes in the Stubblefield Center. Then, the moment they have worked for all season had finally arrived. The Lions were going dancing. They were set for a matchup with Midwestern State (Texas), a team that had already established their presence in the NCAA Tournament.

[The Lions' Chronicle travelled to Denver with the team]

The first round matchup took place in Denver, Colo. at Metro State. The Lions held a lead shortly before the half, but a late push put Midwestern State ahead. Midwestern State then started the second half on a run, extending their lead over UAFS. But the Lions weren’t done. Freshman Alex Cooper came up big down the stretch and got the lead down to 2, but that is as close as they could get. UAFS fell in their first NCAA Tournament appearance.

Although the season didn’t end how we all had hoped, the excitement for UAFS Men’s Basketball is at an all-time high. The Seniors will be missed, but they have set this team up for future success. The coaches will look to add the right personnel to help this team win their third consecutive Heartland Conference Championship, their first Heartland Conference Tournament, and lead them back to the NCAA Tournament.

Derek Hill
Photo Credits: 
Carol-Ann Hill
Date Posted: 
Tuesday, April 22, 2014