Lions Aim To Clinch League Title

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FORT SMITH (KFSM) — There’s a lot at stake in the regular season finale between UA Fort Smith and Rogers State.

Whoever comes away with the victory in Saturday’s contest will claim the Heartland Conference regular season title and ultimately the No. 1 seed heading into the Heartland Conference Tournament.

With only two seniors on their roster, it took a little time for UAFS (19-10, 12-5) to adjust and find their chemistry on the court. They finally clicked in the final stretch of the season and now boast the longest winning streak in the Heartland Conference. Lions’ coach Josh Newman said the loss to St. Edward’s on January 14th was a big wake-up call for him and the team. They re-evaluated their approach to the season, which has worked out for them in the end.

“Kind of when the process started was in that game,” Newman said. “This is going to be the closing chapter of the process. I think they are a really good team, they are very tough, they are very physical, they actually had the longest winning streak in the league until Saturday. So you are talking about the two best teams, two hottest teams playing on the same night versus each other for the conference championship.”

Rogers State (19-8, 12-5) and UAFS faced each other in January when the Lions won on the Hillcats home court 49-46. But, just like the Lions, the Hillcats have grown into a better team since that game. Senior guard Seth Youngblood knows that they will see a different team come into the Stubblefield center on Saturday.

“Their coach is a really good,” Youngblood said. “He’s getting them prepared for us, but coach Newman is really getting us prepared also. We know everything is at high stake right now. We didn’t play our best ball coming into that game against Rogers it’s two totally different teams that are getting ready to go to war with each other.”

The top eight teams in the league will advance to the Heartland Conference Men’s Basketball Tournament. The tournament will be held in Tulsa, Oklahoma on March 2-3 at the Union Multipurpose Activity Center.

UAFS will face Rogers State at 3:00 p.m. in the Stubblefield Center.