By BEN JOHNSON
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.
Men: Central Oklahoma 96, NSU 94, 2OT
Josh Gibbs scored 24 points, including nine in two extra periods, as Central Oklahoma survived in two overtimes against Northeastern State (11-9, 6-7).
Cal Andrews, who finished with 15 points for the Bronchos (13-7, 7-6), built UCO’s lead to 2 by making one free throw with three seconds left to play.
NSU’s Bryton Hobbs put up a running 3-pointer at the buzzer, but it was off the mark, sending the RiverHawks to their fifth straight loss.
“If Bryton’s last shot wasn’t a fraction off, and the ball goes in, we’re all celebrating and thinking we’re playing well,” NSU coach Larry Gipson said. “I’ll try to focus on the positives and hopefully we can take away more good than bad from this game.”
Hobbs led all scorers with 35 points — 18 of which came in the two overtime periods. The senior guard from St. Louis finished eight-of-20 from the field, four-of-13 on 3-point attempts and 15-of-17 at the free-throw line, including three free throws with eight seconds left in regulation that sent the game into overtime tied at 69.
A wide-open look from the left corner was off the mark by UCO’s Aaron Anderson, and the two clubs went venturing into the first overtime period.
The Bronchos led by as much as seven in the first overtime, but NSU scored eight of the final nine points to extend the game into its double-overtime game since 2008.
Hobbs tied the game at 81 on a running layup with 13 seconds left in the first overtime, and after Central Oklahoma called a timeout, Andrews missed an off-balanced 3-pointer from the right wing.
NSU claimed a 85-84 lead midway through the second overtime, but Anderson tied the game on a free throw and the Bronchos took the lead for good on a Gibbs layup with 1:38 remaining.
Anderson and Seth Heckart both scored 19 points apiece for Central Oklahoma.
Micahel Harmon, starting for the first time this season, scored 23 points for the RiverHawks. Harmon was eight-of-14 from the field and seven-of-13 from beyond the arc.
Marcus Sheppard was NSU’s only other scorer in double figures with 11 points. Sheppard was also called for a technical foul late in the second half, which allowed UCO to erase a small deficit and take a slim lead.
From there, NSU had to rally to force bonus basketball.
"I think that this team has lacked self-discipline all year long, and I think that just exhibited it," Gipson said. "It was an iffy call (on Sheppard) and I understand why Marcus was frustrated, but you just don't do that."
Women: NSU 63, Central Oklahoma 61
UCO 25 26 - 61
NSU 26 37 - 63
UCO (10-10, 5-8): Jill Bryan 16, Olivia Mason 12, Morgan 9, J. Mason 7, Weathers 7, H. Bryan 3, Dunn 3, Ward 2, Oakes 2.
NSU (10-10, 7-6): Fontana Tate 15, Mya Walker 14, Carrington Fox 10, Beathard 9, Bellamy 7, Lewis 4, Sagely 4.
Men: Central Oklahoma 96, NSU 94
UCO 32 37 12 15 - 96
NSU 42 27 12 13 - 94
UCO (13-7, 7-6): Josh Gibbs 24, Aaron Anderson 19, Seth Heckart 19, Cal Andrews 15, Brown 6, Bairstow 6, Hogan 3, Richardson 2, Strassle 2.
NSU (11-9, 6-7): Bryton Hobbs 35, Michael Harmon 23, Marcus Sheppard 11, Littleton 9, DeMasters 6, Evans 6, McDonald 4.