MIAMI — Finishing fifth in the Oklahoma Collegiate Athletic Conference after a 65-47 victory last Thursday over Redlands College, the Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College Golden Norsemen earned a direct path to Wednesday’s Men’s Division I Region II Tournament.
With an 8-8 record in the Oklahoma Collegiate Athletic Conference, the Golden Norse tied Seminole State College for fourth place in the regular season.
Seminole received the tie-breaker with an 18-8 overall record while the Golden Norsemen posted a 16-13 season mark.
The two teams square off at 3 p.m. Wednesday in the quarterfinals of the regional tournament at Don Sumner Field House on the campus of St. Gregory’s University in Shawnee.
“We obviously defended exceptionally well against Redlands,” NEO head coach Dustin Grover said. “Then, we added to that some offense from our starting five, and we were able to go to our bench with 9:15 left in the game and they gave us some quality minutes.”
NEO’s starting lineup limited Redlands to a mere 36 points through 31 minutes of play.
“The biggest difference for us in this game was that we played really, really well offensively,” Grover said. “Our starters really shot the ball extremely better.”
Redlands (5-11 and 17-12) largest lead during the first half was three points at 5-2 at the 19:31 juncture. A 3-pointer by Spencer Lindsey and a put-back from Demarion Love accounted for the Cougar lead.
Two 3-point field goals by Kingsley Sam along with two field goals each by Curhone Baldwin and Gabriel Ferreira rallied the Norsemen to a 16-13 margin with 6:18 before intermission.
NEO added three free throws each by Baldwin and Ferreira created a 22-15 Golden Norse lead with 3:51 showing on the clock.
Over the final three minutes of the first half, the Norse received four points each from Arkel Williams and Ferreria and a driving layup by Xavier Miller as NEO carried a 32-20 cushion to the locker room.
“At this point, all we’re looking for is a couple of players to step up and provide us with an offensive spark,” Grover said. “A game like this showed us we can go score.
“I don’t think we need much,” Grover said. “We just need for someone to hit a couple of shots because our defense has been solid all year.”
During the second half, Sam continued his assault from the 3-point range with three long-range basket along with two layups as the Golden Norsemen forged a 50-28 advantage with 9:44 showing on the clock.
The Golden Norse bench accounted for 11 points in the final nine minutes led by Jalyn McKoy 7 and Miller 4 to keep the game out of the hands of the Cougars.
Sam paced the Norsemen with 21 points while Ferreira added 14, Williams, eight; Baldwin and McKoy, seven each; Miller, six, and Dante Jefferson, two.
NEO connected on 22 of 54, including 5 of 16 from the 3-point area, for 41 percent from the field. The Norse sank 16 of 27 for 59 percent at the free throw line.
Ferreira grabbed nine rebounds to give NEO a 40-33 edge on the boards. Isaiah Hammons led the Cougars with seven rebounds.
Marty Love led Redlands with 11 points and Lindsey had 10.
The Cougars hit 14 of 50, including 7 of 24 from the 3-point arch, for 28 percent from the field. Redlands sank 12 of 18 for 67 percent at the free throw line.