SHAWNEE ó Much like last season when Northeastern A&M had to host an elimination game in the first round of the Menís Division I Region II Tournament, the seventh-seeded Golden Norsemen will entertain No. 10 seed Carl Albert State College at 7 p.m. Monday in the NEO Fieldhouse.
"We are not playing great basketball right now," Golden Norse head coach Dustin Grover said. "So, going into the post season, you either start playing great basketball or you go home. Itís just that simple."
NEO ended the regular season on as three-game losing streak. The Norsemen dropped a 73-71 decision on three last second free throws to Seminole State College last Thursday in the NEO Fieldhouse.
The Golden Norsemen finished seventh in the Oklahoma Collegiate Athletic Conference with a 7-11 record and 12-18 overall.
"Our team has to decide whether or not they want to play great basketball," Grover said. "Weíve been in a situation where we play great in spurts, but not for a full 40 minutes and you canít advance in a tournament if you donít play consistently great from start to finish."
Last season was a classic example for the Golden Norsemen. After finishing sixth in the regular season, NEO eliminated the Arkansas Baptist College Buffaloes 77-72 in the Region II first round in Miami.†
Traveling to the Noble Complex on the campus of Shawneeís Oklahoma Baptist University, the Golden Norsemen posted an 89-66 upset over third seed Northern Oklahoma College-Tonkawa in the quarterfinals.
Squaring off against Eastern State College in the semifinals, the Norsemen used clutch free throw shooting in the final minute to stave off a furious rally by the No. 2 seed Mountaineers during a 91-87 victory Saturday afternoon in the semifinals.
Expending too much energy to overcome a 15-point halftime deficit, NEO suffered an 80-75 loss to No. 5 seed Redlands College in the finals of the regional tournament. With the loss the Golden Norse finished 17-17 on the year.
"Itís not too late to turn things around, we just need to make up our minds to get the job done," Grover said. "Iím just not too sure where our mindset is at this point."
Other first round games set for Monday pits No. 6 seed and defending region champion Redlands College (9-9, 14-14) against 11th seed Arkansas Baptist (18-12) at 7 p.m. in El Reno. No. 8 seed Seminole (7-11, 9-19) will host No. 9 seed Western State College (6-12, 13-16) at 7 p.m. in Seminole.
Winner of the NEO-Carl Albert contest faces No. 2 seed Connors State (12-6, 22-7) at 1 p.m. Friday in the quarterfinals at OBU. The Redlands-Arkansas Baptist winner plays No. 3 seed Northern Oklahoma College-Enid (12-6, 20-9) at 3 p.m. Friday.
Another quarterfinal game at 6 p.m. Friday has No. 4 seed Northern Oklahoma College-Tonkawa (10-8, 17-13) facing No. 5 seed Murray State College (10-8, 13-14) followed by No. 1 seed Eastern State College (15-3, 27-3) playing the Seminole-Western winner at 8 p.m.
The menís semifinals will be played at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday. The championship game starts at 4 p.m. Sunday.
Regional winner advances to the National Junior College Athletic Association Menís Division I National Basketball Tournament, March 20-24, at Hutchinson, Kan.†
Coach Mike St. Johnís Carl Albert Vikings enter the tournament 2-16 in the conference and 5-23 overall.
During the regular season the Golden Norsemen won the series with the Vikings.†
Behind a 21-point performance by forward Cesar Mapeli, the Norse gained a 68-60 win on Jan. 16 in Poteau. Veterans Joel Quinones contributed 12 points while Aaron Francis scored 10 points for the Golden Norse.
Jaymere Hayden tallied 16 points to lead the Vikings while Adrion Webber added 15 and Lashawn Gallion scored 14 points.
Mapeli missed the rematch with Carl Albert 13 days ago in Miami, as well as the remainder of the season, with a knee injury during a loss to Redlands College here on Jan. 18.
In the second meeting with Carl Albert, the Norsemen had five played score in double figures en route to a 75-59 victory. Aaron Francis led the Norse with 14 points, followed by Quinones with 13, Geraldo Isla 12, Jon Bond 11 and Chris Cox 10.†
Hadden paced all scorers with 16 points while Myron Williams added 12 for the Vikings.
"Weíve got to do a better job of contesting shots," Grover said. "We were outscored 32-12 from the 3-point area in the loss to Seminole and you canít win doing that.
"Our offense hasnít been that bad, weíre just not executing very well late in games defensively," Grover said. "Weíve got to compete hard and not let up."†