History in Monroe: Tigers outlast Warhawks 108-102 in triple overtime, advances to CIT semifinals

by Pedro Romero Jr.

The Tigers of Texas Southern defeated the Warhawks of Louisiana-Monroe 108-102 on Thursday night after three overtime periods to advance to the semifinals of the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament.

The result marks the team’s 24th victory of the season which is the most the school has made since they entered the NCAA Division I in 1977.

Despite being down for the majority of the two halves of regulation, the Tigers led throughout the three overtime periods as they had to tackle the Warhawks’ many comebacks during these stretches.

In the first period of overtime, the Tigers were on the verge of closing the game out by executing a defensive stop on an inbound play. With the seconds dying down, the Warhawks brought the ball to Michael Ertel for a last-second heave from near the half-court line. He threw the ball up in the air and, as the buzzer sounded to signal the end of the first overtime, swished seamlessly, leaving the crowd in a fit of delirium and the Tiger delegation in raw shock.

Moving forward to the last minute of the second overtime, an exchange of layups allowed Texas Southern to create an opportunity of stealing the game with the last play of the period. The Tigers’ Tyrik Armstrong dribbled the ball at the top of the key and drove to the right elbow, finding teammate John Jones at the corner looking for a shot. Armstrong passed the ball to Jones and the latter spotted up for a 3-pointer, but the shot went in and out of the basket, leaving the refs to call time, signaling for the game’s third overtime.

In the third overtime period, after TSU made two free throws for a 106-102 score, the Warhawks coughed the ball up for a turnover in their last possession, prompting Armstrong to steal the ball and throw it to the isolated Devocio Butler for a two-handed dunk, laying down the metaphorical dagger to end the game.

Four Tiger players scored more than 10 points in the game, with Tyrik Armstrong making the most from the group with 32 points. He also made eight assists, three steals, and one rebound in his performance.

“Tyrik Armstrong was the star quarterback of our team,” head coach Johnny Jones said in the post-game press conference. “Every single point of his career-high 33 was needed tonight and he facilitated the ball excellently once again.”

Elsewhere, three players each notched a double-double with Jeremy Combs scoring 27 points and making 11 rebounds, Eden Ewing making 23 points and 11 rebounds, and Devocio Butler mustering 12 points and 11 rebounds.

For the Warhawks, five players reached double-digit figures, with two of them achieving double-doubles in their own right. Michael Ertel led the team in scoring with 24 points on 10 of 18 shooting. Travis Munnings contributed with 22 points and 10 rebounds while Daishon Smith and Tyree White matched each other with 17 points.

The Tigers scored more than 100 points for just the second time this season, with the last occasion happening in December 8, 2018 against Concordia (TX) with a score of 107-70.

The result marked the Tigers’ third straight road win during the tournament. The team’s impressive accomplishment can be traced back to their preseason preparations prior to opening SWAC conference play, which featured them playing games against eventual NCAA Tournament-bound teams in Gonzaga, Oregon, Arizona State, Iowa State, and Baylor.

In addition to that, the team had a share of supporters who cheered them on from the stands. A couple of buses filled with Tigers fans traveled from Houston to Monroe earlier in the day to see their team come out on top over the Warhawks. Coach Jones underscored the role they played in his team’s eventual victory.

“The administration wounded up bringing in two buses full of Tiger fans and students to the game. We fed off of our fans’ energy especially down the stretch,” coach Jones said.

The result advances the Tigers to the semifinals of the CollegeInsider.com Tournament, where they will await the winner between Cal State Bakersfield and Green Bay from the last remaining quarterfinal game. That semifinal game will happen on April 2.

“I’m so proud of this group and this accomplishment could not have come in a better fashion than this triple overtime thriller,” coach Jones said after the win against UL-Monroe. “We are certainly excited to be playing April basketball!”