With first place in the Eastern Division of the Bi-State Athletic Conference on the line, Northeastern A&M's Golden Norsemen conclude the regular season at 8 p.m. Thursday by hosting arch-rival Connors State College in the NEO Fieldhouse.
Coach Dustin Grover's Golden Norse have parlayed a four-game winning streak into a tie with the Eastern State College Mountaineers for the Bi-State East lead. Both teams are 5-2 in the division while the Golden Norse stand 15-14 overall.
Following a 68-49 victory over Carl Albert State College Monday night in Wilburton, coach Win Case's Mountaineers are 12-14 on the year. The Mountaineers entertain the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith Lions at 8 p.m. Thursday in Wilburton.
Should the two teams end up with identical 6-2 records in the Bi-State East, the Golden Norsemen would win the divisional title because they have won both regular season games. NEO defeated Eastern 62-61 on Feb. 3 in Miami before gaining an 85-78 win in overtime on Feb. 19 in Wilburton.
“This is a huge game for us,” Grover said. “These kids have worked very hard all season and now it comes down to the final game of the season.
“We need to come out and be as aggressive in everything we do from the opening tip-off against Connors,” Grover said. “We played that way Monday night in the second half against UAFS and came away with a 72-65 win.”
Veteran coach Bill Muse has guided the Connors Cowboys to a 16-12 season record and a 2-4 mark in the Bi-State East.
The Cowboys dropped a 64-46 decision to Eastern last Thursday in Wilburton.
Connors has a makeup game on Saturday by hosting Carl Albert at 4 p.m. to conclude the regular season.
“Our players are fully aware of the situation,” Muse said. “You've got to be optimistic because if we win both games we could lock up the third seed on the Bi-State East side for the Region II Tournament.
“We're taking it one game at a time,” Muse said. “We've got to play well this week because our post-season future will be determined by Saturday.”
When the two teams met Feb. 12 in Warner, freshman center Tulio Cobos scored 13 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to lead the Golden Norsemen to a 61-57 victory over the Cowboys in the Melvin Self Fieldhouse. Charles Moore led Connors with 14 points.
With four sophomores on their roster, veteran point-guard Joe Morgan (5-10 of Miami), forward Fernando Filho (6-5 of Uberlandia, Brazil), forward John Boyd (6-5 of Wagoner) and Jorge Parra (6-9 of Trujillo, Venezuela) are expected to see considerable playing time.
Morgan will start at point with a 1.2 scoring average while leading the Norse with 84 assists and recording 23 steals.
Freshman Dominique Gaines (6-3 of Muskogee) will start at 2-guard for NEO. Gaines leads the team in scoring with an 18.8 average while making 72 assists and 41 steals.
While the Cowboys have only three sophomores on their roster, veteran Terrence Simmons (6-1 of Durant, Miss.) and freshman Dylan Gilliam (6-3 of Little Rock, Ark.) are expected to start at guards.
Simmons has a 10.4 scoring average while leading Connors with 72 assists and 29 steals.
Gilliam leads the Cowboys in scoring with a 14.8 average while recording 40 assists and 20 steals.
Freshmen Tremaine Luellen (6-4 of Memphis, Tenn.) and Tulio Cobos (6-5 of Los Teques, Venezuela) are expected to start at forwards for NEO.
Luellen is averaging 13.9 points and 4.3 rebounds per game. Cobos leads the Norsemen with a 9.1 rebounding average while scoring 13.9 points per contest.
Expected to start on the wings for the Cowboys will be freshmen Mister Carney (6-4 of Tulsa) and Cameron Henderson (6-6 of Little Rock, Ark.).
Carney is averaging 6.7 points and 2.1 rebounds while Henderson is scoring 13 points per game and grabbing an average of 5.1 rebounds.
Parra should start in the post for the Golden Norsemen with a 1.6 scoring average and a 3.5 rebounding mark.
Moore (6-7 of Altheimer, Ark.) starts in the post for Connors with a 12.5 scoring mark and a 9.9 rebounding average.