GCMS grad Ryland Holt, West Texas A&M men’s basketball team advance to NCAA Division II Final Four

EVANSVILLE, Ind. – Ryland Holt, a 2019 Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley High School graduate, scored 21 points for West Texas A&M in a 90-76 win over North Georgia in the NCAA Division II Elite Eight on Tuesday.

Sixteen of his points came in a second half in which the Buffaloes (30-4) overcame a 25-11 run by North Georgia that erased a 44-32 West Texas A&M halftime lead.

Holt, the Lone Star Conference Defensive Player of the Year, also had five rebounds, one assist, one steal and one blocked shot.

“I think Ryland Holt is a really special player,” Buffaloes head coach Tom Brown said. “He is a really humble young man as well. He really focuses on defense. We needed his offense tonight.”

Despite a Holt dunk within the first three minutes of the second half and an offensive rebound by him that drew a foul, which resulted in one point via a free throw, with 16:25 remaining, North Georgia cut its deficit to 53-50 before Holt drained a 3-pointer with 14:57 left in the second half.

“I thought North Georgia did a really good job,” Brown said. “They made a great push to start the second half. That’s a pretty good team. Anybody in the Elite Eight is a good team. It is a game of runs.”

Holt then made a defensive deflection that led to a layup by Ahamed Mohammed that made it 55-47.

Larry Wise made a tying bucket midway through the second half to make it 57-57 before draining a go-ahead 3-pointer that made it 60-59. Holt then assisted Mohammed on a bucket that made it 62-61 with less than nine minutes left in the game.

“Mohammed played outstanding. He controlled the game,” Brown said. “I thought he moved the ball when he had to and took it to the bucket when he had to. He’s a great young man for us. I’m really proud of him.”

With North Georgia leading 63-62, Mohammed converted a three-point play with 7:52 remaining to give the ninth-ranked West Texas A&M team a 65-63 advantage.

Holt then broke a 65-65 tie with a layup with 6:44 remaining before a bucket by Mohammed made it 69-65 with less than six minutes left in the game.

Holt made a 3-pointer that extended the Buffaloes’ lead to 72-67 with less than 5 ½ minutes left in the game before a 3-pointer by Toussiant – whose 19 points include a 5-for-6 performance from beyond the arc, putting him in the top 15 in NCAA Division II history for 3-pointers made – stretched it to 75-67.

Holt – who finished the game making 4-of-8 3-point shots – drained another trey that made it 80-72 with 3:51 remaining. After the game, Brown pointed out a Feb. 24 game in which Holt made 6-of-7 shots from the beyond the arc against St. Edward’s.

“He can shoot it,” Brown said.

Holt made two more free throws with less than 3 ½ minutes remaining to make it 82-72.

The Buffaloes were one of three teams to reach the 90-point mark in the Elite Eight on Tuesday, marking the first time since 2011 that three teams reached 90 points or more in the quarterfinals.

“It was a great college game,” Brown said. “I wish it wasn’t so tight, but we grinded it out.”

Wise was West Texas A&M’s leading scorer with 21 points while Mohammed was the Buffaloes’ fourth double-digit scorer with 18 points.

“That’s kind of how we played all year,” Brown said about the balanced scoring.

Holt will face his former team in Minnesota State (33-2) – who defeated Ferris State 98-70 in its Elite Eight game — in the semifinals at 3:30 p.m. Thursday. Holt played for the Mavericks before transferring to West Texas A&M in 2022.

“I’m happy to see him go in,” Minnesota State senior Malik Willingham said. “It’s always fun to see one of your best friends do their thing, but we’re doing our thing here.”

Holt was Northern Sun Collegiate Conference Freshman of the Year for Minnesota State.

“Those are all his buddies over there,” Brown said.

Fourth-seeded West Texas A&M will face a top seed – and the second-ranked team — in the semifinals on Thursday.

“The matchup is going to be intense,” Brown said. “It’ll be physical. It’ll be a great ballgame. They’re very good. They’re big and strong. We’re the underdog. We’re the underdog, so we’re going to have to play well to beat them, but we’ve got a pretty good team, too.”