Phoenix staff, wire reports
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It came to a heartbreaking end for Larry Gipson.
Northeastern State lost 61-60 to Central Oklahoma in the semifinals of the MIAA Championship tournament Saturday evening inside Municipal Auditorium.
UCO’s Josh Gibbs corralled a missed shot and was fouled on the put-back attempt, and he calmly sank both free throws with five seconds left to put UCO on top. A contested 3 from Bryton Hobbs at the buzzer would not draw iron as the Bronchos earned the victory.
The No. 9-seeded RiverHawks (16-13) saw their season come to a close, while the No. 5-seeded Bronchos (20-9) move on to face either No. 2 seed Northwest Missouri State or No. 3 seed Missouri Southern State at 3:30 p.m. today for the conference championship.
Gipson announced his retirement on Feb. 16. He ends his historical career with an overall record of 565-361 as a collegiate head coach, and he finished his 17-year run at NSU with a record of 280-201.
“This is a tough pill to swallow because I thought, at the very minimum, we played even with this team,” Gipson said. “It’s a game that could have gone either way. Unfortunately for us, it didn’t go the way we wanted,”
Hobbs led the RiverHawks with a game-high 28 points. He hit six 3-point baskets and also added six rebounds, six assists and three steals. Hobbs ended his two-year career at NSU with 1,182 points. He led the MIAA in scoring this season with a 23-1 ppg average. Senior forward Marcus Sheppard ended his career with a 10-point, five-rebound, four-assist performance.
NSU shot 40.8 percent (20-for-49) from the field, 44.8 percent (13-for-29) from behind the 3-point line and 63.6 percent (7-for-11) at the free-throw line. UCO shot 46.2 percent (24-for-52) overall, 29.4 percent (5-for-17) from downtown and 80 percent (8-for-10) at the line.
Josh Gibbs finished with 20 points and 11 rebounds, while Aaron Anderson added 16 points from the Bronchos.
Central Oklahoma jumped out to a quick 9-2 lead, and the Bronchos stretched their lead out to eight points at 22-14 after NSU battled back within one. The RiverHawks tied the game at 29-29 with 20 seconds left in the first half, but a puback from Anderson at the buzzer gave UCO a 31-29 halftime advantage.
The Bronchos again went ahead by eight at 43-35 at the 14:04 mark, but Northeastern State used a 14-1 run to take a 49-44 lead with 10:04 to play. A three from Cal Andrews and a layup from Philip Brown cut the NSU lead down to one, but another quick 5-0 spurt from the green and white put them on top 55-49 at the 6:52 mark.
NSU maintained the six-point advantage all the way until the 3:07 mark, when back-to-back 3s from Jarred Bairstow and Andrews tied the game at 57-57.
Hobbs hit a three with 1:27 left, but Gibbs got an offensive rebound and tip-in to make the score 60-59 in favor of the RiverHawks on UCO’s next possession. Hobbs missed a three on NSU’s next time down the floor, and another offensive rebound from Gibbs with 4.8 seconds remaining would spell doom for Northeastern State.