WILBURTON — Northeastern A&M nailed down its 14th total men’s basketball conference championship Thursday, Feb. 27 with an 88-85 win over Eastern Oklahoma State College.
The Norse, who finish 23-6 overall and 15-1 in league play, had led only 43-40 at the half, then each team scored 45 points over the final 20 minutes.
“That’s a tough place to play,” Norse coach Jeremy Jackson said. “They (fans) are on top of you. Their baseball and soccer teams were heckling us all night. It was their Sophomore Night and they were ready to play.”
It’s back-to-back titles for the Norse, who have lost only three Oklahoma Collegiate Athletic Conference titles in the past two season.
NEO won three straight Bi-State Conference titles in 1968, 1969, 1970 under NEO Athletic Hall of Fame member Cletus Green.
The other conference titles were in 1957, 1960, 1974, 1976, 1978, 1989 (the year the Norse won their only NJCAA national championship) 1991, 2004 and 2007.
NEO now will face either Eastern (again) or Western Oklahoma Stage College in the 1 p.m. opener on Thursday, March 5, in the Men’s Region II Basketball Tournament at Oklahoma Baptist University in Shawnee.
The Norse were without one of their freshman leaders, Kalil Camara, who was held out of the game after suffering a nasty spill Monday night during a scramble against Western Oklahoma State College.
“We wanted to go out on a winning note and we took care of business. We did what we were supposed to do,” Jackson said.
Freshman Nikita Konstantynovski and sophomores Rudi Williams and Samkelo Cele combined for 79 of NEO’s 88 points in the game.
Konstantynovski scored a team high 27 points while Williams and Cele scored 26 each..
Cele and Konstantynovski also had 13 and 10 rebounds, respectively.
Williams, who played all 40 minutes of the game, was 11 of 21 from the field. Konstantynovski and Cele were even more impressive, Konstantynovski converting on 12 of his 17 attempts (71%) and Cele going 11 of 17 (65%).
“Rudy and Sam were our ‘alpha males’ and Nikita had the game of his brief NEO career,” Jackson said. “He probably had seven dunks. He had some great moves and some great rebounds. He was playing. I was very proud of the kid.”
Jadan Graves had three points while
Tyren Collins, Taylor Gonzalez and James Franklin Jr. had two points each.
Eastern’s offensive leaders were Grayson Nix with 20, Kariim Bird with 19, Stefone Richardson with 14 and Kenyarey Springs with 12.