By BEN JOHNSON
It was already going to be a special night for Larry Gipson. It turned into a memorable occasion.
NSU senior guard Bryton Hobbs buried a 3-pointer as time expired to send Northeastern State to a 61-60 triumph at the NSU Event Center in Gipson’s final home game as the RiverHawks’ coach.
“We called motion (on offense), and I’m not sure we got that point across,” said Gipson, who announced that he is retiring at the end of the season after 17 years as NSU’s coach.
“When we went into our offense, I don’t think we trusted our offense. Then we just put the ball in Bryton’s hands.”
That worked out just fine.
After NSU’s offense stalled after a timeout with 23 seconds left, Hobbs — one of two players honored on Senior Night — started from the right side of the court and dribbled to his left and created enough separation to get a shot off as time expired. The ball touched nothing but the bottom of the net, giving Hobbs a game-high 22 points on an eight-of-18 effort from the field.
The officials reviewed Hobbs’ shot to see if he got it off in time and to see if he was behind the 3-point arc. And Hobbs was good on both accounts.
“He made a big shot,” said Gipson, whose team last lead — before the final shot — was at the 18:33 mark of the second half.
The win moved NSU to 13-10 overall and 8-8 in the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association. It also pulled the RiverHawks into a tie for eighth place in the league — which would be high enough to garner a home game in the first round of the conference tournament.
“This keeps us in the hunt for a home-court berth,” Gipson said. “We just need to take care of business and keep going.”
NSU’s only other scorer in double figures was Curtis Evans with 11 points. The RiverHawks’ other senior, Marcus Sheppard, finished with seven points and 11 rebounds.
Leading the way for Pittsburg State (7-16, 3-13) was former Vinita standout Jake Bullard, who posted 14 points. The Gorillas’ leading scorer on the season, Devon Branch, was limited to seven points on three-of-13 shooting from the field. Branch, who was held below 10 points for the first time this season, also committed one of his five turnovers with 31 seconds left, giving NSU the chance to tie or take the lead on the game’s final possession.
That’s all Hobbs needed to send Gipson out a winner in front of 904 who showed up for Gipson’s swan song at home.
“I want to thank everyone in the Northeastern community; all of our fans, all of our boosters, the faculty,” Gipson said. “This has been a great run for me, and I know I saw several people here tonight that made it a point to come up and say nice things to me. Our administration, that was a real nice video they did (before the game). It captures a lot of memories. When you’ve coached as long as I have...I’m just pleased we could go out with a win — and an exciting win at that.”
Gipson upped his career win total at NSU to 277 games. He’ll get a chance to add to that Saturday at Central Oklahoma.
Women: Pittsburg State 63, Northeastern State 46
Lane Lord had 14 players at his disposal on Wednesday night. Northeastern State had eight.
Advantage, Pittsburg State. And Lord took full advantage.
“That was our game plan,” Lord said of wearing down the short-handed RiverHawks. “We wanted to try and press for the first 15 minutes of the game, and we just wanted to see where we were at that point.”
The Gorillas (20-6, 13-3 MIAA) were in full control after 15 minutes had elapsed.
Carrington Fox — NSU’s lone senior — pulled NSU to within 3 (18-15) at the 8:03 mark of the first half, but that’s as close as NSU would get the rest of the night.
Pittsburg State — which extended its winning streak to nine games on the same day it found out it was ranked sixth in the Central Region rankings — led 38-24 at halftime and never let NSU get any closer than 16 points in the second half.
“I think for whatever reason we were a little flat right from the start,” said NSU coach Randy Gipson, whose team dropped to 10-13 overall and 7-9 in league play. “They’re a team that’s really playing well right now and they have great depth, and we didn’t get out of the gates good, I didn’t feel.”
Eleven players scored for Pittsburg State, which was led by Cathy Brugman’s 13-point effort. Lizzy Jeronimus — the league’s second-leading scorer — and Antqunita Reed both tallied 12 points apiece for the Gorillas, who shot 43.9 percent (25-of-47) from the field.
The RiverHawks — who were 16-of-45 (35.6 percent) from the field — were led by Chelsey Beathard, who logged 14 points. Fox was NSU’s only other double-digit scorer with 11 points.
Up next for NSU is a road contest against rival Central Oklahoma on Saturday. Tip time is at 1:30 p.m.
Men: NSU 61, Pittsburg State 60
Pitt 28 32 - 60
NSU 27 34 - 61
Pittsburg State (7-16, 3-13): Jake Bullard 14, Trevor Gregory 10, Kjer 9, Cordray 9, Branch 7, Williams 6, Gustafson 5.
NSU (13-10, 8-8): Bryton Hobbs 22, Curtis Evans 11, Harmon 8, Sheppard 7, DeMasters 7, Qualls 6.
Women: Pitt State 63, NSU 46
Pitt 38 25 - 63
NSU 24 22 - 46
Pittsburg State (20-6, 13-3): Cathy Brugman 13, Lizzy Jeronimus 12, Antuqnita Reed 12, Westhoff 7, Snell 4, Roderique 4, Herlocker 3, Muff 2, Bordewick 2, Hesser 2.
NSU (10-13, 7-9): Chelsey Beathard 14, Carrington Fox 11, Lewis 7, Tate 4, Bellamy 3, Cowan 3, Sagely 2, Walker 2.