CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo Eastern forward Tyler Jefferson, left, and Angelo State guard Trey Mays fight for the ball on the ground during the first half of their game Wednesday at Greyhound Arena.
By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer
PORTALES — It’s been a tough year for the Angelo State men’s basketball team, but the Rams persevered Wednesday night.
Playing their 14th game of the season decided by less than 10 points, including six overtime contests, 6-foot-8 junior forward LaDonn Huckaby knocked down his fifth 3-pointer of the game with 2.8 seconds left to lift the Rams to a 70-68 Lone Star Conference South Division win over Eastern New Mexico University at Greyhound Arena.
Angelo State, which started the year 0-6, improved to 7-10 overall (3-2 South) after erasing a double-figure deficit with 15 minutes left and overcoming the loss of 6-6 senior forward Ridge McKeither to an apparent dislocated knee.
McKeither was injured after a collision with 10:12 to go where Thomas was called for a charge against ENMU’s Tyler Jefferson. It took about 30 minutes for paramedics to get McKeither onto a stretcher.
“He just came down awkwardly on his one leg,” ASU coach Fred Rike said. “You just hope and pray for the kid. He’s one of the top rebounders in (NCAA Division II, averaging 10.6 per game coming in).”
Jefferson and McKeither got tangled on the play as they went to the floor. Jefferson went into the lockerroom briefly for treatment, but returned to the game a short time later.
Senior guard Richard Thomas scored 28 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for ASU, while Huckaby finished with 17 points and guard Steven Moore added 12. Moore hit a 3-pointer with 45 seconds left to put the Rams in front 67-65 before ENMU junior guard Steven Mirabal, who finished with 21 points, gave the Greyhounds a one-point lead with 20 seconds to go on his fourth trey of the night.
Jefferson added 14 points and 13 rebounds for ENMU (7-10, 2-3), while juniors Max Carrier and Tralyn Harden scored 11 apiece. Senior guard Gerald Brown had 11 assists and no turnovers for the Hounds, who were credited with 23 assists on their 26 baskets.
Huckaby entered the game 6-of-20 from 3-point range, but went 5-for-8 against the Hounds.
“LaDonn Huckaby is a capable shooter,” Rike said. “He hasn’t shot the ball that well this year, but he stepped up tonight.”
ENMU coach Andrew Helton was disappointed his team couldn’t finish off the game.
“They (Rams) hit big shot after big shot,” he said. “We didn’t get any stops (late).
“We had to win this game. We have to bounce back now and get ready to play (Saturday at Abilene Christian), but I’m just beyond disappointed.”
ASU went on an early 15-5 run to lead 17-11 with 11 1/2 minutes to go in the half, but the Hounds scored the next 16 points and 20 of the next 22 to open a 31-19 advantage. Two 3-pointers by Huckaby and one each by Thomas and reserve guard Joey Lenox kept the Rams in striking range, but Mirabal knocked down a long trey with six seconds to go to put ENMU in front 41-34 at halftime.
The Hounds led 51-41 with 14:43 to go after a baseline shot by Mirabal, but didn’t score again until Jefferson’s basket with 9:11 remaining — shortly after the delay for McKeither’s injury.