PLAYING FOR A NIGHT OFF AC Looking to Clinch First-Round Tournament Bye on Saturday

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Saturday’s regular-season and home finale for the Angelina College Roadrunners won’t just feature a tribute to sophomores nor a team simply playing out its year.

Saturday’s game still has plenty of meaning behind it.

Having already clinched a berth in the upcoming Region XIV Conference Tournament, the Roadrunners are hoping for a night off in the form of a first-round bye on the tournament’s opening day on Tuesday.

Currently, AC is riding a six-game winning streak and is tied for second place in the South Zone with Lamar State College-Port Arthur. If the Seahawks lose to Jacksonville on Saturday, AC will clinch the bye. If Lamar-PA wins, the ‘Runners simply have to beat Lee College at Shands Gymnasium to skip out on first-round action.

Keying the late-season winning streak has been a brand of defense leaving opponents frustrated and at a literal loss. In seven of AC’s past eight games, the ‘Runners have held opponents to fewer than 70 points – a remarkable achievement in a high-scoring league.

Head coach Nick Wade says there have been no major adjustments to the team’s approach; rather, it’s simply a measure of his players’ commitments to one another.

“It’s a process of continuing to get better, but more than anything, the guys are playing for the guys next to them,” Wade said. “They want to send our sophomores out on a high note.

“But they also want to be mentioned in the conversation as one of the better teams in Region XIV. Not many people were talking about us at the beginning of the season.”

Another element carrying the team to success is Wade’s insistence – stated before the team had even held its first official practice – that players give everything they have for however long they’re on the floor. In Wednesday’s win over first-place Jacksonville College, no player embodied that mantra more than Ovidio Perez, who fought his way to 17 rebounds despite facing a distinct size disadvantage in the paint.

“If you’re going to play here, you have to be tough, and Ovidio is a tough kid,” Wade said.” Every night, we have to have someone different step up and make plays, and he has such a huge heart. He’s a guy who makes those plays for us.

“Unless you’re around the team, you don’t realize how close they are. They really care about each other. You see that on the court more than anything. In the dog days of the season, they’re leaning on family as much as heart, and that more than anything makes us a scary team right now.”

Saturday’s game against Lee College tips off at 4 p.m. at Shands Gymnasium. Prior to tip-off, the team will honor sophomores Kevin Norman, Markus Stevenson, Deedy Gauno, Kenan Jackson, Hunter Janacek and Chris Simmons.

Viewers can catch the action via live streaming by logging onto angelinaathletics.com.

The e-mail address for AC’s Sports Information Director is gstallard@angelina.edu.

Author

Gary Stallard
Gary Stallard
Sports Information Director Gary Stallard, who also serves as a Liberal Arts Instructor, begins his eleventh season with Angelina College. Following a career as a U.S. Marine, Stallard completed his bachelor’s degree at Stephen F. Austin University, where he majored in English and Journalism. For more than 16 years, he has worked as a sports writer/columnist/photographer for the Lufkin Daily News; he continues to contribute free-lance articles on occasion. Stallard has won several awards for writing, including the Golden Hoops Award for basketball writing in 2003, Regional Sports Writer of the Year in 2004, and the Texas Press Association’s first-place award for column writing in 2007 and in 2014. He has also done basketball, football and baseball radio and live streaming play-by- play and color commentary for an ESPN affiliate. Currently Stallard serves as play-by-play broadcaster for AC basketball, baseball and softball games.

Prior to arriving at Angelina College, Stallard taught English at Lufkin High School for four years. He currently teaches Developmental Writing classes at AC. He and his wife Susan live in Lufkin.
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