Cowboys celebrate title with perfect home finish

Published 10:42 pm Monday, March 4, 2024

Like most good parties, Monday night’s celebration inside the Legacy Center took a while to get going.

But by the time the night was over, there was plenty of hooting and hollering by the Cowboy faithful who waited 13 long, suffering years for this moment.

McNeese State celebrated their already-won Southland Conference regular-season championship on Senior Night with 3,373 of their closest friends. 

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Last Saturday the Cowboys officially claimed the crown and top seed in the upcoming SLC postseason tournament with a win over Nicholls. Monday was just an encore.

McNeese used a big second half to put away Houston Christian 87-69 and end the home portion of their schedule a perfect 16-0. It is the first time since 2001-02 that the Cowboys have gone undefeated at home. They will play one more game, Wednesday night at New Orleans, before hosting the conference tourney next week.

Still, on Monday they were handed the trophy and cut down the nets, something they hope to repeat in nine days with the tournament title.

“This was just practice for us,” said guard Shahada Wells. “Next week we want to get another one. That’s the big one.”

The win was the Cowboys’ 22nd in their last 23 games and eighth in a row. They improved to 27-3 overall and 16-1 in the Southland. HCU fell to 6-22, 4-13.

Afterward, they celebrated surrounded by their fans on the court.

“This is exciting,” said Wells. “This is for the community. We worked so hard for this and they have been through so much. We are not done yet. This is just a stepping stone.”

For one Cowboy it was extra special. Forward Christian Shumate had suffered through 45 losses in the last two seasons. He came back for this moment.

“Exciting, this means everything to me,” said Shumate. “We have been through so much. This is a complete turnaround and I’m glad I’m here for it.”

It was Shumate who carried the trophy off the floor and back into the locker room.

“He is the one who deserves this the most,” said McNeese head coach Will Wade. “I’m very happy for him. He has been through so much and stayed here for this.”

Wade was also happy to share it all with the McNeese fans.

“It makes me happy to see other people happy,” Wade added. “I get joy seeing other people happy.”

After a sluggish first half, the Cowboys ran away with things in the second, using an early 18-3 run to break open a close game. 

Shahada Wells led all scorers with 24 points, all but wrapping up his Player of the Year campaign. DJ Richards added 21, 16 coming in the second half. 

“My teammates put me in a good situation,” said Richards. “They knew I have been struggling. They made everything easy for me.”

McNeese outscored the Huskies 48-33 after a tight first half that saw them lead just 39-36 at the break.

Javohn Garcia added 16 points and C.J. Felder chipped in with 10. Marcus Greene was the top man for the Huskies with 23.

Garcia got the Cowboys going after the break with seven points in the first four minutes after the break.

“Javohn changed the game with his energy,” said Wade. “Both with his offense and his defense, he put a charge into us. And Hada did a great job keeping us in it in the first half.”

After Wednesday the Cowboys won’t play until next Tuesday in the SLC semifinals.

“Today is a big moment but it is the culmination of a lot of small moments,” said Wade. “We are not done though. Hopefully, we got more moments ahead of us.”