The Student News Site of Appalachian State University

The Appalachian

The Student News Site of Appalachian State University

The Appalachian

The Student News Site of Appalachian State University

The Appalachian

Newsletter Signup

Get our news delivered straight to your inbox every week.

* indicates required

Apps finish season strong

Senior Guard Frank Eaves reacting to App’s 69-63 win against UALR on Thursday night, March 3. Photo by Dallas Linger, Photo Editor.

Game one: App State 69, UALR 63

App State men’s basketball (8-22, 6-13 Sun Belt) found their Sun Belt tournament hopes alive after a upsetting conference leading Little Rock (27-4, 17-3 Sun Belt) 69-63.

Falling behind 8-3 in the first five minutes of the game, it seemed like the Mountaineers were in line for a blowout against the team with the best record in the nation.

It felt like the Mountaineers couldn’t get anything to go in before sophomore guard Jake Babic hit a 3-pointer to bring them within one with 12 minutes to play in the first.

“It’s been a tough year, but we let them know today that Little Rock plays hard and have had an incredible year,” coach Jim Fox said. “We told our guys that if they don’t respond, it would be a long night.”

Babic hit his second three of the game just a minute later to give the Mountaineers a 14-12 lead, and the Mountaineers never liked back. Fox attributed some of the confidence to get back into the game to the words of freshman Kevin Kerley.

“After the Georgia Southern game, I ripped into freshman Kevin Kerley for not speaking up.” Fox said.

Today, Kerley received the message. “Kevin gave an incredibly passionate speech today before shoot around,” Fox said. “As a freshman, he got out there and spoke his heart. The leadership shown by him today was tremendous. To hear something from your teammates is incredible.”

The team received the message. “Whether he knows it or not, he really helped us out tonight.” Babic said.

Staying focused and committed, the Mountaineers took their largest lead of the game 25-18 with 6:11 remaining in the first half while the Trojans went on a 1 for 7 shooting slump.

Little Rock did not back down and retook the lead 28-27 with two minutes remaining and finished the first half tied 30-30 with App State. The Mountaineers shot only 32% from the field in the first half while the Trojans shot 40%.

“The confidence we had in each other helped us tonight and played a huge part in the outcome,” freshman guard Ronshad Shabazz said.

The game stayed close in the second half and the Mountaineers took advantage on the glass, out rebounding 40-28.

“I thought Obacha really set the rebounding tone, and if we played on our heels we would have gotten blown out of the gym,” Fox said.

Through five ties and seven lead changes, freshman Bennett Holley hit a huge jumper to give App a 51-50 lead with 5:48 remaining.

“I thought Bennett played with toughness today and he made an incredibly soft play leading up to it before making the jumper,” Fox said.

The Mountaineers would not look back after this and Shabazz, who finished with 22 points, went on a late game tear scoring nine points through the final four minutes.

“We looked at each other and knew what we had to do. That is something we haven’t always done in the past,” Shabazz said.

Arguably the game clincher, senior guard Frank Eaves drew a foul and converted a 3-point play, which put App State up 64-60 with 1:06 to play in the game.

“We knew we had to win tonight and we didn’t crumble and stayed together and made plays,” Eaves said. “It was very good for us to see the basketball gods on our side this time.”

Two free throws by Emarius Logan clinched the upset for the Mountaineers and kept them in a four-team race for the last two Sun Belt tournament spots in Louisiana.

“We knew the magnitude of the moment,” Babic said. “We knew the importance and want a chance to represent our school in New Orleans.”

Game two: App State 80, Arkansas State 73

Facing their second straight do or die game, the Mountaineers (9-22, 7-13 Sun Belt) came through against Arkansas State (11-20, 7-13 SBC) winning their season finale 80-73. Both teams had to win in order to have a chance at making the Sun Belt tournament. Appalachian State had to win and rely on South Alabama beating Texas State for their tourney spot, a scenario that didn’t work out in the Apps’ favor as Texas State beat the Jaguars 68-57.

Despite missing out on the tournament, the Mountaineers were able to end their season on a high note and hopefully building momentum for next season.

“Very pleased with our guys, this is major progress,” Fox said. “The team didn’t surrender, the team didn’t crumble, and that’s a major step for these guys.”

Fox certainly was pleased in a game that saw most of his major pieces for next season’s team play well. Sophomore forward Griffin Kinney had the best game of his career, going 7-10 from the field for 18 points, a career high.

“The guards created a lot for me, getting me the ball in good spots,” said Kinney. “I think we were just hungrier than [Arkansas State].”

The Mountaineers certainly needed Kinney’s scoring, as their two primary options, Frank Eaves and Ronshad Shabazz, went a combined 5-25 from the field. It was up to other players to pick up the load to allow the team to win.

“We got a lot of depth,” freshman guard Emarius Logan said. “Every game Frank isn’t going to be on, Shabazz isn’t going to be on and it’s up to guys like [Kinney and Logan] to pick it up.”

Logan, after struggling with his shot for much of the season, had another solid game in a string of good ones of late, scoring 12 points to go along with five assists.

Kinney and Logan weren’t the only two players to play well, as seniors Jacob Lawson and Dustin Clarke made their last games in an Appalachian State uniform meaningful.

Clarke, getting the start, scored five early points, including a nifty reverse lay up to go along with a 3-point bucket. Lawson, one of the premier defensive big men in the Sun Belt, finished the game with eight points, eight rebounds, and three blocks.

With the season over, the Mountaineers will reset and begin to work towards next year, when the team should be much improved with the continued development of players like Tyrell Johnson, Griffin Kinney, and Emarius Logan to go along with standout Ronshad Shabazz.

Story by: Jason Huber, Senior Sports Reporter and Lee Sanderlin, Sports Editor

Donate to The Appalachian
Our Goal

We hope you appreciate this article! Before you move on, our student staff wanted to ask if you would consider supporting The Appalachian's award-winning journalism. We are celebrating our 90th anniversary of The Appalachian in 2024!

We receive funding from the university, which helps us to compensate our students for the work they do for The Appalachian. However, the bulk of our operational expenses — from printing and website hosting to training and entering our work into competitions — is dependent upon advertising revenue and donations. We cannot exist without the financial and educational support of our fellow departments on campus, our local and regional businesses, and donations of money and time from alumni, parents, subscribers and friends.

Our journalism is produced to serve the public interest, both on campus and within the community. From anywhere in the world, readers can access our paywall-free journalism, through our website, through our email newsletter, and through our social media channels. Our supporters help to keep us editorially independent, user-friendly, and accessible to everyone.

If you can, please consider supporting us with a financial gift from $10. We appreciate your consideration and support of student journalism at Appalachian State University. If you prefer to make a tax-deductible donation, or if you would prefer to make a recurring monthly gift, please give to The Appalachian Student News Fund through the university here:

Donate to The Appalachian
Our Goal