MIAMI — Thought to be playing mostly for pride a few weeks ago, the Northeastern A&M women now find themselves playing for an Oklahoma Collegiate Athletic Conference championship.
The Lady Norse held on for a 51-49 victory over Connors State College here Thursday, Feb. 13.
That leaves NEO in a tie with Northern Oklahoma-Enid at 7-5.
Redlands, which pounded Northern-Tonkawa 102-75, is in first at 9-4.
Murray State, a 78-62 winner over Seminole State is 8-4 and Eastern Oklahoma State sits at 8-5 thanks to a 72-62 victory at Western.
The Lady Norse (12-10) now have won three straight and four of five since ending a four-game tailspin last month that left them 3-4 in league play.
“Now its up for grabs,” Lady Norse coach Jim Rowland said. “We still have to play Murray. We’re playing better and we’ve got Murray at home.
“I told our girls let’s worry about us and wherever we fall, we fall. If we win out then that means we are doing a good job and are putting ourselves in the top three spots, no matter what.
“We just don’t want to be in the bottom four. I feel like anybody in the league who is the conference champion, you're not guaranteed to win the region title because it’s up for grabs. We can’t worry about everyone else; let’s just go play game-by-game. If we win out, we will see where that puts us.”
The four games left on NEO’s schedule include Redlands on the road Monday, at home with Murray Tuesday, Feb. 20, Western at home åßon Feb. 24 and at Eastern on Feb. 27.
The Lady Norse led Connors (18-9, 5-8) by two heading into the fourth quarter and they held off the visitors until the 3:23 mark when Chalynn Mayes nailed a jumper to forge a 45-all tie.
There were two ties before Ivvana Murillo canned a pair of free throws with 27.4 seconds left for the final points in the game.
Connors was looking to force overtime, but coughed the ball up with 2.4 seconds remaining.
“That last play of the game, I thought we guarded them well,” Rowland said. “Dariann Miles did a good job getting through that screen and putting pressure because they wanted a 3. That’s what they were looking for.”
Koreea Kirksey and Eliska Stebetakova had 11 points each and Kine Diop came off the bench to score 10 for the Lady Norse.
Others with points for NEO were Murillo, eight; Myles, five; Gabriela Chivata, four, and Kiarra Brooks, two.
De’Asia Reid and Mayes scored 14 and 10, respectively, for the Cowgirls.
“A win is a win and I will take it anyway we can this late in the season,” Rowland said. “I credit their defense, but I still thought we were very, very bad offensively. I told the ladies I know we are going to play defense, but offensively, we have to be good. They took the 3-ball away from us a little bit.
NEO launched only 11 treys, hitting three of those.
It shot 36% from inside the arc.