By Kevin Wilson
CMI staff writer
In less than five seconds, Kevin Wagner took the Midwestern State Mustangs from down and out in Portales to back home with a chance at the Lone Star Conference’s top seed.
The Lubbock native scored his lone field goal of the night on a coast-to-coast layup with 1.1 seconds to go, giving the visiting Mustangs an 81-79 win in overtime Saturday night at Greyhound Arena.
The basket came after Rodney Blackmon’s baseline 3-pointer capped a 9-2 run that tied it and, without Wagner’s heroics, would have forced a second overtime the Mustangs had virtually no chance at winning due to foul trouble.
Midwestern State (17-6, 9-2 LSC), on the strength of a six-game streak that includes three wins in overtime, is now solidly in second place in the Lone Star Conference and has a chance at first place should Tarleton State (21-1, 10-1) falter down the stretch.
“It’s just such a fine line in the business of winning basketball games,” Mustangs coach Nelson Haggerty said. “There are so many good players and coaches in this league.”
Two were on display, between Blackmon and Midwestern’s Monzaigo Williams, who led the Mustangs with 19 points and rescued them in regulation.
Williams, who shot 8-of-15 and defended Blackmon most of the game, came in with four fouls and the Greyhounds up 61-53 with 5:26 to go. He scored five points in the final minute of regulation, and drew enough attention on a third drive that Xavier Blackburn was all alone to scoop up the offensive rebound. Blackburn, who finished with 11, hit a pair of free throws to knot it at 67.
In overtime, Williams scored five points in a 7-0 run to open the period, and had the Mustangs up 77-70 when he picked up his fifth foul with 1:02 to play.
“He’s obviously a great player,” Greyhounds coach Andrew Helton said of Williams, “and it was a different team with him out of the game.”
With few viable options to guard Blackmon, and the Mustangs failing to close out the game at the line, the Greyhounds fought back. Blackmon hit a pair of free throws with 14 seconds left to make it 79-76, then got another chance when Blackburn traveled after getting the ensuing inbound pass.
Blackmon, with Wagner on him, hit his fifth 3-pointer of the night on a step-back move from the left baseline for points 22 through 24.
But Wagner struck back in the scramble with six seconds left and neither team holding a timeout.
“He gave me a short look, but he knew,” Haggerty said. “Our outlet guy, Xavier, had the presence of mind to get it out there quick. I thought Kevin did a good job attacking the middle of the floor.”
Haggerty conceded the Mustangs wouldn’t have survived another extra period with their thinned-out backcourt. Williams and DeJuan Plummer (14 points) had both fouled out, and Wagner had four fouls himself.
The Greyhounds, stymied by their own misfortune in tight games, could only manage a Rafael Love half-courter that was well short as time expired.
In conference, the Greyhounds have been in four games decided by two or less, and have gone 1-3. With a 3-1 mark, Eastern New Mexico would be tied with the Mustangs for second place.
“You can’t go 18 of 33 from the free-throw line,” Helton said. “You just can’t.”
Love and Devone Davis each had 12 points, while Phil Henry had six points and five blocks to set and extend the school’s single-season record for blocks (40).
The Greyhounds visit Texas A&M-Commerce on Wednesday before closing out the regular season against Tarleton State and West Texas A&M at home the next two Saturdays. Midwestern State hosts Angelo State, currently tied with ENMU for third in the conference, on Wednesday before closing out the season on the road at Texas A&M-Kingsville and Cameron.