App State gets back on track with double-digit Senior Night win


Travis Holshouser

Senior forward James Lewis Jr. slams home a dunk over top a South Alabama defender.

Noah Cornelius and Ben Gosey

The Mountaineers closed out their home season splitting a pair of games to Troy and South Alabama last week.

App State opened Thursday Feb. 17 with a tough 67-61 loss to Troy.

In the first half, sophomore forward CJ Huntley started off perfectly, nailing three three-pointers in a row. Then, junior forward Donovan Gregory took over, scoring 10 points before halftime. 

Most notably was the performance from junior forward RJ Duhart. Before this game, he had not played since Jan. 8 against Troy, where he played only one minute. Nonetheless, head coach Dustin Kerns called upon the Florida native in the middle of the first half. 

“Some of it depends on our opponent,” said Kerns when asked about Duhart in the post-game press conference. “This was a tough matchup game for us both defensively and offensively, but from a rebounding standpoint, we felt like Duhart’s size would work tonight.” 

Senior guard Justin Forrest attacks off the dribble against Troy. (Travis Holshouser)

Duhart scored six points on two shots and also made two free throws, but had zero rebounds.

In the second half, Troy pulled away from App State, leading by 11 points. The Mountaineers went from shooting 51.9% from the field in the first half to shooting 38.5% in the second, including an abysmal 1-for-10 from the three-point line. 

Senior guard Adrian Delph poured in 12 second-half points,  getting the Mountaineers back in the game within the closing minutes. 

The Trojans had some foul calls go their way down the stretch, and the Mountaineers ran out of time, falling to Troy 64-61. 

Coming into the game, third-place Troy was just half a game behind Texas State for first place in the Sun Belt Conference, while App State, despite having the most conference wins with ten, was second because of their win percentage. The loss bumped the Mountaineers down to third in the conference.

App State returned Saturday for Senior Night, winning the home finale in a 69-51 blowout against South Alabama. The Mountaineers secured their third straight winning season for the first time in 22 years. 

Before the game, App State recognized four seniors: guard Michael Almonacy, guard Adrian Delph, guard Justin Forrest and forward James Lewis Jr. 

“Our seniors helped change the course of this program and should really be commended for that,” Kerns said. “That is a big deal, so just really proud of our guys for that.”

Mountaineer fans cheer on the Black and Gold during App State’s double-digit Senior Night victory over South Alabama. (Hiatt Ellis)

The Holmes Convocation Center was packed for the home finale, hosting 4,508 fans, its largest crowd since 2010. 

“I think I saw we had 4,000 people here today. That is most definitely the most I have ever seen since I have been here,” Forrest said. “We can’t thank them enough.” 

Delph opened the game with a trio of threes, propelling the Mountaineers to an early 9-2 lead. South Alabama battled back, keeping the game close until back-to-back dunks by Lewis Jr. and Huntley capped off a 9-0 run by the Mountaineers to end the first half.  

App State kept its foot on the gas, coming out of halftime with a 30-19 lead. All three senior guards came out firing from three, sparking a 12-2 run early in the second half.​ With the team clicking on both sides of the court, the Mountaineers extended their lead to a high of 22. App State facilitated the ball well as the team made 26 field goals on a season-high 22 assists. 

“You know what, probably couldn’t script it any better,” Kerns said. “Biggest crowd since 2010, all four seniors in double figures, never trailed and beat a really good team.”

Every senior finished scoring in the double digits, led by Delph with 20, who shot 50% from behind the arc. Forrest finished with 13, followed by Almonacy with 12 and Lewis Jr. with 10 points and nine rebounds. Gregory consistently found his teammates, posting 10 assists and zero turnovers, falling just two points and rebounds short of a triple-double. 

“Everybody in our program had to give everything they had, empty the tank for those four guys,” Kerns said. “Make sure they leave here with a memory they’ll never forget, and that’s a win on senior night.”

With 50 seconds left in the game, Kerns used a timeout to sub the seniors out of the game. As the players hugged on the floor for the final time, they were met with a standing ovation and cheers from the crowd. 

“These guys are really like my family,” Almonacy said. “Just going out here and getting that win on Senior Night, it was something special.”

The Mountaineers travel to Arkansas to close out the season to play Little Rock Wednesday and Arkansas State Friday. 

“We really grew tonight as a team defensively and offensively throughout the whole game,” Almonacy said. “Now, as a team, we learn from this win and prepare for this final week of conference play.”