SHAWNEE — The Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College Golden Norsemen earned the No. 3 seed in Thursday’s quarterfinal round of the Men’s Division I Region II Tournament in the Noble Complex on the campus of Oklahoma Baptist University.
Hosted by Visit Shawnee (formerly the Convention & Visitors Bureau), the eight-team single-elimination tournament returns to OBU after a seven-year run at Shawnee’s St. Gregory’s University.
The regional tournament had been played at OBU from 1992-1993 through 2009-2010 before moving down the street to St. Gregory’s.
However, the Board of Directors at St. Gregory’s made the decision to suspend operations of the university at the end of the 2017 fall semester.
Two play-in games are scheduled for Monday. Eastern State College
(4-12 and 14-12) hosts Arkansas Baptist College (0-0 and 15-13) at 7 p.m. in Wilburton while Redlands (5-11 and 13-16) entertains Murray State (3-13 and 10-18) at 7 p.m. in El Reno.
NEO faces No. 6 seed Western State College at 1 p.m. Thursday in the first quarterfinal matchup. The Golden Norsemen finished 11-5 in the Oklahoma Collegiate Athletic Conference.
Riding a seven-game winning streak, NEO enters the tournament with a 20-8 season record following a 99-88 victory last Thursday over Redlands College in El Reno.
“We’re going into the tournament a little dinged up with the loss of (Dylan) Van Eyck,” Grover said. “He hasn’t played the last two games and I think it will be questionable about whether he will be ready to go Thursday.”
Van Eyck, a 6-9 freshman forward from the Netherlands, suffered a severely sprained ankle against Northern Oklahoma-Enid.
“There is still swelling in the ankle,” Grover said. “So, if we win a game, he might be able to come back and play a little.
“But, we’ve had some guys step up and play well in his absence,” Grover said. “His size on the defensive side really is a difference
maker. We feel like we can pick up the scoring, it’s trying to replace a 6-9 guy.”
Western enters the game with a 6-10 record in the OCAC and 17-12 overall. The Pioneers dropped a 90-81 decision last Thursday at Northern-Enid.
Home court advantage was a factor in the regular season series as the Pioneers defeated the Norsemen 82-58 on Jan. 14 in Altus before NEO earned an 80-73 win on Feb. 15 in Miami.
“We’ve beat everybody in the region,” Grover said. “There’s not a team that we haven’t beat, so we feel that we can win any matchup we face.”
Other quarterfinal games on Thursday feature No. 2 seed Northern Oklahoma-Tonkawa (12-4 and 23-7) playing the Redlands-Murray State winner at 3 p.m.
Five-time defending region champion and No. 13 ranked Connors State
College (14-2 and 26-3) received the No. 1 seed and will play the Eastern-Arkansas Baptist winner at 6 p.m.
Concluding the quarterfinal round at 8 p.m. Thursday will be No. 4 seed Seminole State (9-7 and 20-9) squaring off against No. 5 seed Northern-Enid (8-8 and 15-11).
The men’s semifinals will be played at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. Friday with the championship game slated for 4 p.m. Saturday.
Winner of the Region II Tournament advances to the NJCAA Men’s Division I National Tournament, March 19-24, at the Hutchinson
(Kansas) Sports Arena.