- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 14, 2009

BIRMINGHAM, ALA. (AP) - Andrew Hayles scored 17 points and made three 3-pointers during a pivotal stretch to lift Alabama State to a 65-58 victory over Jackson State on Saturday night in the Southwestern Athletic Conference tournament championship game.

The top-seeded Hornets (22-9) make the NCAA field for the third time, and first since 2004.

Hayles hit three 3-pointers during a 15-3 spurt that put Alabama State ahead 47-36 midway through the second half. He had 14 points after halftime.

Darion Griffin hit two free throws to cut it to 49-46 with 5:24 left, but the Tigers (18-15) couldn’t sustain the comeback and lost in the title game for the second straight year.

The Tigers missed two 3-pointers in the final minute with a chance to pull to within three points. Alabama State made eight of 12 free throws in the last 1:22 to ice the win.

Hayles was selected the tournament MVP. The Hornets became the first No. 1 seed to win the tournament since Southern in 2006 and have won 13 of their last 14.

Wesley Jones added 14 points and seven rebounds for Alabama State, which shot 57 percent in the second half. SWAC player of the year Brandon Brooks had eight points and seven assists.

Grant Maxey led Jackson State with 15 points on 6-of-17 shooting, and Darrion Griffin and Garrison Johnson added 12 points each.

The league’s top shooting team, Alabama State made only four field goals in the opening 17 minutes and trailed by as many as 10 points.

The Hornets made most of that up before the half. They closed it on a 10-2 run and cut the deficit to 25-23 when Brooks stole the ball from Rod Melvin near midcourt and raced for a dunk in the final seconds.

No SWAC team has won an NCAA tournament game since Alcorn State beat South Alabama in 1980.

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