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Lions earn number one seed in Southland Conference Tournament

Jonathan Rhodes

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Senior guard Quinton Thomas tries to finish a jump shot in the game against Nicholls State University. Nikisun Shrestha/The Lion's Roar

The Lions basketball team defeated Nicholls State University 69-57 in the University Center. The win secured the Southland Conference regular season title for the Lions along with a share of the number one seed in next week’s Southland Conference Tournament.

The Lions have also earned a spot in the National Invitational Tournament. Head Coach Jay Ladner reflected on the journey for the program to get this accomplishment.

“We talked to our players about how this is a cumulation of four years to be in this position and play in these types of games,” said Ladner. “So, embrace it, enjoy it and do not be terrified of it. We have been champions for three years as our guys have worked hard and progressed, but now we have bigger and better players than we’ve ever had at any point. The guys that were here before are all smiling because we talked to them all of the time about laying a foundation to improve it.”

The Lions closed out the regular season on an eight-game winning streak and will have a chance to play in the NCAA Tournament if they can win the Southland Conference Tournament. Ladner does not want to settle for this victory and wants the team to go as far as they possibly can this season.

“To win the Southland Conference Championship for the second time in school history is very satisfying, but we aren’t satisfied yet,” said Ladner. “In no way do we want to downplay this. We are very grateful and gracious, but I guarantee you they are not satisfied. Now the big challenge is to do it again in the tournament.”

Ladner explained how the team could hold everything together and finish the season positively despite the on-campus shooting incident involving redshirt senior forward James Currington and redshirt senior guard Jabbar Singleton.

“We certainly had an unfortunate situation that happened, and we are very anxious as a school for the truth to come out on that,” said Ladner. “It is unfortunate that some of our players were not out there with us physically tonight, but they were with us in spirit. This is a very tight-knit group. Anytime something like this happens, it could go one of two ways. It could split a team up that is not tight-knit, but they are a family. I’m proud of all of them, even the ones who are not here. Hopefully, this all resolves itself.”

Junior forward Moses Greenwood led the Lions with 18 points and had three blocks. Junior guard Marlain Veal led the team with eight assists and finished with the single-season record for assists with 190. Senior guard Eddy Polanco recorded his first double-double of his Lion career with 11 points and 10 rebounds.

Redshirt senior guard Joshua Filmore was glad to finish his last regular season with the Lions as the best team in the Southland Conference.

“Since my freshman year, it’s been five years with two ACL injuries and surgeries,” said Filmore. “It feels great to have all of that hard work pay off.”

Redshirt senior forward Jordan Capps got injured in the previous game against the University of New Orleans and did not play in this game.

“Capps was playing great at UNO, and it was unfortunate that on a fast break dunk as he jumped he got a strained adductor,” said Ladner. “He has improved greatly since then. He would have been used in an emergency. Our medical staff feels that he will be 100 percent by the tournament.”

Veal described what winning the regular season title means to him.

“It means everything to me,” said Veal. “Having my friends and my family and these people who have been supporting us since day one has been great. I always tell people that Josh Filmore was one of the people my freshman year telling me I got to do this and do that. He really let me mature into how I am now, and so, I thank him a lot for that.”

The Lions will play in the semifinal round of the Southland Conference Tournament on Friday at 5 p.m. in Katy, Texas.

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