SHAWNEE - Sophomore guard Misty Haley sank a free throw with one second left to complete a 17-point rally and lead the Northeastern A&M Lady Norse to a 67-66 victory over Northern Oklahoma College-Tonkawa Thursday afternoon in the opening round of the Women's Division I Region II Tournament.
With the victory, coach Jim Rowland's defending champion Lady Norse (23-7) advance to the semifinals Saturday at 1 p.m., where they NEO will face the second-ranked Arkansas-Fort Smith Lady Lions.
Coach Louis Whorton's Lady Lions (29-1) opened the tournament with a 90-45 dismantling of Western State College.
During the regular season, the Lady Lions won the two game series with the Lady Norse.
Paced by 22 points each from Dannah Kemp and Katorra Lewis, the Lady Lions earned a 92-62 victory on Feb. 7 in Miami.
Tannisha Smith scored 22 points to give UAFS an 87-66 win on Feb. 25 in Fort Smith.
“We better get ready to attack their zone because that's what they'll throw at us,” Rowland said. “They are so talented at executing full court pressure and we'd better be ready to handle it.
“They scored 37 points off 31 turnovers from Western,” Rowland said. “We can't make those kind of mistakes in the backcourt because they turn them into break away layups.”
Against the Northern Lady Mavericks, the Lady Norse built a 15-8 lead in the first seven minutes on two 3-point field goals by Haley and one by Nolisha Markham, along with four points by Megan Fraley and a layup by Skye Rees.
A 3-point field goal by Ali Aresco, along with regular field goals by Samantha Hill, Holly Hardin and Erin Sheik, rallied the Lady Mavericks to a 17-15 lead with 12:01 left in the first half.
Following a 3-pointer by Fraley and a layup by Layla Ferreira to create a 22-20 deficit for NEO, the Lady Norse went through an eight-minute drought as NOC-Tonkawa built a 33-20 cushion.
Field goals by Carletta Hernandez, Aresco, Hardin and a 3-pointer by Hill along with two free throws by Amy Pryor provided the Lady Mavericks run.
Despite two straight putbacks by Markham, the Lady Norse trailed by a 35-24 margin at halftime.
“I told them at halftime ‘I can't make shots’'” Rowland said. “We were getting anything we wanted, but nothing was falling.
“We went 9 of 27 from the field and four of those were 3-pointers,” Rowland said. “We shot 33 percent while they hit 43. That's why we were in such a hole.
“The one thing we wanted to do was to get established in the post and we weren't able to get that going,” Rowland said. “When you don't accomplish a goal, you have to change your focus.”
Northern forgot to read the memo that said it had lost 21 straight games to the Lady Norse.
The Lady Mavericks received a 3-point field goal from Pryor and a traditional field goal and free throw from Hardin, along with a layup by Sheik, to construct a 43-24 cushion two minutes into the second half.
Over the next 11 minutes, the Lady Mavericks maintained a 64-50 advantage on 3-points each by Meghan Winters, Hardin, Pryor and Sheik, along with two putbacks by Hernandez and one by Hill.
“I called a time out with 7:30 left in the game and I told them that true champions would take control of the situation,” Rowland said. “Misty (Haley) is a true champion. She was on a state championship team at Oktaha and she played in the NJCAA national tournament last season.”
Before the 5-6 Haley started working her magic, Markham sank a field and free throw and Fraley canned a 3-pointer to rally NEO to a 64-56 deficit with 5:20 remaining on the clock.
A putback by Hardin with 4:54 showing on the clock was the last points generated by the Lady Mavericks.
Layups by Fraley and Markham preceded seven straight points by the diminutive Haley as the Lady Norse completed the comeback in the final four minutes.
With the score tied 66-66, Haley took a pass from Fraley as the clock ticked down.
Northern forward Aresco fouled Haley on a jump shot at the top of the key with one tick left on the clock.
After sinking the first free throw, Rowland told Haley to miss the second. She did, but Northern grabbed the rebound and was awarded a time out with 0:00.4 left on the clock.
The inbound pass from Winters was knocked away by NEO's Autumn Thompson as the buzzer sounded.
Haley scored a career-high 26 points while Markham hit 16 and Fraley added 12 for the Lady Norse.
Hardin paced the Lady Mavericks (16-14) with 21 points while Pryor scored 13 and Sheik 11.
Hernandez grabbed nine rebounds to give NOC-Tonkawa a 43-34 advantage on the boards. Fraley led NEO with 10 rebounds.
Northeastern A&M 67,
Northern Oklahoma-Tonkawa 66
Northeastern A&M (23-7) - Haley 9-15 1-2 26, Markham 6-13 3-5 16, Fraley 4-11 2-2 12, Thompson 3-5 0-0 6, Bassett 1-7 0-0 3, Ferreira 1-4 0-0 2, Rees 1-5 0-2 2, Hedgecorth 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 25-60 6-11 67.
Northern-Tonkawa (16-14) - Hardin 9-12 3-6 21, Pryor 4-10 2-2 13, Sheik 5-13 0-0 11, Aresco 3-8 0-0 7, Hernandez 3-10 0-0 6, Hill 2-4 0-0 5, Winters 1-7 0-0 3, Kunschik 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 27-64 5-8 66.
Halftime - NOC-Tonkawa 35, NEO 24. 3-point goals - NEO 11-27 (Haley 7-9, Fraley 2-6, Markham 1-4, Bassett 1-7, Ferreira 0-1), NOC-Tonkawa 7-23 (Pryor 3-6, Hill 1-1, Sheik 1-3, Aresco 1-4, Winters 1-4, Hardin 0-2, Hernandez 0-3). Rebounds - NEO 34 (Fraley 10), NOC-Tonkawa 43 (Hernandez 9). Assists - NEO 3 (Thompson 2), NOC-Tonkawa 11 (Pryor 4). Steals - NEO 6 (Bassett 2, Fraley 2), NOC-Tonkawa 9 (Pryor 4). Blocked shots - NEO 4 (Markham 4), NOC-Tonkawa 3 (Hernandez 2). Turnovers - NEO 16, NOC-Tonkawa 18. Total fouls - NEO 10, NOC-Tonkawa 14. Fouled out - Hernandez.