By Ben Johnson
TAHLEQUAH - It was already going to be a special night for Larry Gipson. It turned into a memorable occasion.
NSU senior guard Bryton Hobbs buried a 3-pointer as time expired to send Northeastern State to a 61-60 triumph at the NSU Event Center in Gipson’s final home game as the RiverHawks’ coach.
“We called motion (on offense), and I’m not sure we got that point across,” said Gipson, who announced Sunday that he is retiring at the end of the season after 17 years as NSU’s coach.
“When we went into our offense, I don’t think we trusted our offense. Then we just put the ball in Bryton’s hands.”
That worked out just fine.
After NSU’s offense stalled after a timeout with 23 seconds left, Hobbs — one of two players honored on Senior Night — started from the right side of the court and dribbled to his left and created enough to separation to get a shot off as time expired. The ball touched nothing but the bottom of the net, giving Hobbs a game-high 22 points on an eight-of-18 effort from the field.
The officials reviewed Hobbs’ shot to see if he got it off in time and to see if he was behind the 3-point arc. And Hobbs was good on both accounts.
“He made a big shot,” said Gipson, whose team last lead — before the final shot — was at the 18:33 mark of the second half.
The win moved NSU (13-10, 8-8 Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association) into a tie for eighth place in the league — which would be high enough to garner a home game in the first round of the conference tournament.
“This keeps us in the hunt for a home-court berth,” Gipson said. “We just need to take care of business and keep going.”
NSU’s only other scorer in double figures was Curtis Evans with 11 points. The RiverHawks’ other senior, Marcus Sheppard, finished with seven points and 11 rebounds.
Leading the way for Pittsburg State (7-16, 3-13) was former Vinita standout Jake Bullard, who posted 14 points.
Pitt St. 63, NSU 46
Lane Lord had 14 players at his disposal on Wednesday night. Northeastern State had eight.
Advantage, Pittsburg State. And Lord took full advantage.
“That was our game plan,” Lord said of wearing down the short-handed RiverHawks. “We wanted to try and press for the first 15 minutes of the game, and we just wanted to see where we were at that point.”
Carrington Fox — NSU’s lone senior — pulled NSU to within 3 (18-15) at the 8:03 mark of the first half, but that’s as close as NSU would get the rest of the night.
Winners of nine straight, the Gorillas (20-6, 13-3 MIAA) led 38-24 at halftime and never let NSU get any closer than 16 points in the second half.
Eleven players scored for Pittsburg State, which was led by Cathy Brugman’s 13-point effort.
Up next for NSU is a road trip to UCO on Saturday. Tipoff is at 1:30 p.m.