Fontana Tate wanted to drive to the basket and possibly earn a trip to the free-throw line. Instead, she just opted for a step-back 3-pointer.
Option B worked out just fine for the junior guard from Muldrow.
Her ninth 3-point attempt of the game touched nothing but the bottom of the net, putting Northeastern State ahead for good in what ended in a 63-61 victory for the RiverHawks.
“I just wanted to go make something happen,” said Tate, who scored a team-high 15 points. “Just try to get a foul, and if the shot doesn’t come, find the open player and find someone to kick out to. The step-back just happened.”
Looking to send the game to overtime, Central Oklahoma’s final possession ended with Julia Mason missing a point-blank jump shot at the rim as time expired. Both Carrington Fox and Chelsey Beathard were in the area defending for NSU.
“Foul,” Central Oklahoma coach Guy Hardaker said of Mason’s shot attempt. “I know how officials are down the stretch, and a good official is not going to call that. But, yeah, she got fouled.”
Instead, it was the Bronchos’ fourth straight loss as Central Oklahoma fell to 10-10 overall and 5-8 in the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association.
The win snapped a two-game losing streak for Northeastern State (10-10, 7-6).
“It’s always a close game, no matter what the records are or how your seasons are going,” Fox said of the biannual matchup with UCO. “It’s always a close game, and it’s always a good game.”
Fox finished the game with 10 points, eight rebounds, five assists and seven blocks. Fox — with 118 blocks in her career — is now four shy of breaking the school record for blocks in a career.
However, blocking a shot was never her intention as Mason came bearing down on her with the clock ticking down.
“We knew that they were really good at the 3-point line, and we know that’s probably what they’re going to go to,” Fox said. “We wanted to watch the 3-point line, but we also wanted to make sure we didn’t get slipped on.”
NSU, which led 26-25 at halftime, owned a lead of 52-40 with 5:48 to play, but Central Oklahoma came barreling back with a 21-8 run and eventually owned a 61-60 advantage with 38 seconds to play after Haley Weathers’ 3-pointer from the left wing.
But Tate’s dagger with nine seconds left would be the only points the remainder of the contest.
“That shot that she took is something we do for 10 minutes every day to start practice, so that’s something she knows she can do,” NSU coach Randy Gipson said of Tate. “I don’t think there was any doubt she had good rhythm on the shot. She stepped up and knocked it down.”
UCO, whose largest lead was 5 at 9:57 in the first half, was led in the game by Jill Bryan, a senior from Copan who had 16 points while going five-of-nine from the floor. Mason was the Bronchos’ only other scorer in double figures with 12 points.
Mya Walker chipped in with a season-high 14 points for the RiverHawks, who will be off this weekend before playing at Emporia State on Wednesday.
NSU finished the game 20-of-45 (44.4 percent) from the field and seven-of-21 (33.3 percent) from beyond the arc. Central Oklahoma connected on only 33.3 percent (19-of-57) of its shots from the field.
There were six ties and nine lead changes in the game.