NSU (women) 64, UCO 58
Sarah Green held her own underneath the basket and grabbed an offensive rebound. Twenty-four seconds later, Taylor Lewis buried a 3-pointer. Mere seconds after that, Tosha Tyler nearly tackled Lewis after her big shot.
It was a memorable sequence on a special night for NSU’s three seniors.
Lewis’ trey gave the RiverHawks a six-point lead, and they would eventually wind up with a victory in their regular-season finale.
“She hit it in that girl’s face, too,” Tyler said of Lewis’ clutch 3-pointer. “That’s what made it even better.”
Tyler did most of the heavy lifting throughout, scoring a game-high 21 points on 7 of 12 shooting. The senior from Vinita was also 3 of 5 from deep and a perfect 4 of 4 from the free-throw line.
“Tonight was a night where I was actually hitting my shots,” said Tyler, who along with Lewis and Green capped a 46-3 record at home during their four-year tenure in Tahlequah.
With the victory, the RiverHawks (19-7, 14-4 MIAA) — ranked ninth in the Central Region rankings — clinched the No. 3 seed in next week’s MIAA tournament.
“Besides trying to win the league championship, that’s the next most important thing,” NSU coach Randy Gipson said. “We’ve put ourselves in a good position now to where we can have some time to really prepare for this tournament.”
NSU nearly went into next week’s conference tournament in Kansas City, Mo., on a sour note.
UCO — despite entering on a four-game losing streak while sitting at second to last in the league — had every intention of ruining the festivities. Alyssa Fuxa buried a jumper for the Bronchos (9-16, 2-15) with 4:00 to play, giving UCO its final lead at 56-55.
However, NSU responded with nine straight points until Savannah Hamilton hit a meaningless jumper for the Bronchos as time expired.
“A lot of credit goes to UCO,” Tyler said of the Bronchos, which owned a 10-point lead with 7:46 left to play in the first half. “They definitely came here with their minds set on an upset.”
Taylor Lewis, the MIAA’s second-leading scorer coming in, provided 15 points and seven rebounds for the RiverHawks. Chelsey Stricklen also came off the bench and scored all nine of her points in the second half.
“Chelsey Stricklen hit a big basket,” Gipson said of Stricklen’s jumper that gave NSU a 59-56 lead with 1:51 to play. “Fittingly, Taylor Lewis, with the career she’s had here, hits the big shot to kind of ice the game for us.”
Fuxa paced the Bronchos with 14 points, 10 of which came in the opening half. Britney Morgan added 12 points to the losing cause, and Copan native Jill Bryan tossed in 11 points for UCO.
NSU (men) 83, UCO 71 OT
UCO 42 26 3 — 71
NSU 38 30 15 — 83
UCO (12-13, 10-7): Spencer Smith 21, Jamell Cormier 19, Josh Gibbs 18, Carter 5, Huffman 5, Andrews 3.
NSU (19-7, 12-6): Bryton Hobbs 22, Jermaine Bransford 18, Anderson 17, DeMasters 11, Schneider 9, Mack 4, Sheppard 2.
NSU (women) 64, UCO 58
UCO 29 29 -- 58
NSU 27 37 -- 64
UCO (9-16, 2-15): Alyssa Fuxa 14, Britney Moran 12, Jill Bryan 11, Solberg 7, Hamilton 6, Dunn 5, New 3.
NSU (19-7, 14-4): Tosha Tyler 21, Taylor Lewis 15, Chelsey Stricklen 9, Tate 7, Green 6, Fox 4, Jones 2.