By Kenton Brooks
Phoenix Sports Writer
TAHLEQUAH – Fittingly, students amongst the past-capacity crowd of 1,224 picked up Bryton Hobbs and carried him off the floor after Northeastern State’s overtime win against Central Oklahoma on Wednesday.
The 6-foot junior guard scored eight points in overtime to lift the RiverHawks to the 83-71 win against the Bronchos in Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association action before a packed Jack Dobbins Field House — the last scheduled game at the 58-year-old facility.
“It felt great (being picked up) because we didn’t have that great fan base earlier in the season,” Hobbs said. “But everybody throughout our school saw our effort and wanted to come out and support. When they first picked me, I thought ‘Please put me down’ or ‘Don’t drop me.‘ ”
Hobbs dropped in 22 points, nine rebounds and eight assists as NSU improved to 19-7 overall and 12-6 in conference.
NSU coach Larry Gipson probably would have picked up Hobbs himself.
“He’s a big-game player who has saved us numerous games down the stretch,” Gipson said. “I think he has the will to win and the ability to make plays. I think you saw that tonight.”
Hobbs almost won the game in regulation as his shot from mid-court at the buzzer bounced on top of the basket, but didn’t go through.
“I was praying it would go in, but it rimmed out,” he said.
Jermaine Bransford added 18, Ethan Anderson scored 17 and Landon DeMasters chipped in 11 for the RiverHawks.
UCO dropped to 12-13 and 10-7 as Spencer Smith scored a team-high 21 points. Jamell Cormier scored 19 and Josh Gibbs added 18.
In between games, Dobbins (the program’s winningest coach with 321 victories), the current RiverHawk seniors from both teams, former NSU coaches and players from 1955 to the present and the 2003 men’s national championship team were honored. A video showing the last seconds of the national title win against Kentucky Wesleyan was also shown.
Fans and school officials could be seen wearing gray t-shirts that had “Farewell Jack Dobbins Field House” on the front and “Our House for 58 years” on the back.
Women: NSU 64, UCO 58
Taylor Lewis might have talked about the memories she’s had in the Field House, but she made the last one for the women’s program as her 3-pointer with 27.4 seconds left in the game clinched the victory for the RiverHawks.
“It was just an awesome feeling,” said the Broken Arrow native, who finished with 15 points. “It’s a great way to send off the gym.”
With the win, NSU, improving to 19-7 overall, clinches the third seed in the league with a 14-4 record and gets a bye in the opening round of the March 7-10 conference tournament in Kansas City, Mo.
“Besides winning the conference championship, that’s the next most important thing,” NSU coach Randy Gipson said. “We put ourselves in position now to really prepare for this tournament. We’re pleased with the position we’ve got ourselves in now.”
Tosha Tyler led NSU with 21 points, making 7 of 12 field goals and 3 of 5 3-pointers.
UCO had an 11-0 scoring run in the first to lead 13-6 and was up 29-27 at the half.
NSU took its first lead of the second half on Fontana Tate’s 3-pointer with 14:34 left. UCO, though, a 56-55 lead with 3:59 left on Alyssa Fuxa’s basket.
Tyler’s basket with 3:44 left gave NSU the lead for good at 57-56 and NSU held on for the victory.
“This is a Bedlam game, of sorts, for us in our league,” Gipson said. “We knew they would come in and give a stout effort. I’m proud of our team as we made plays down the stretch. It was a good win.”
Fuxa led UCO (9-16, 2-15) with 14 points. Britney Morgan had 12 and Jill Bryan added 11.