SHAWNEE – It was the longest Region II Tournament game in history Friday night at St. Gregory’s University and the outcome wasn’t what Connors State wanted.
Top-seed Connors fell to Northeastern A&M 117-115 in five overtimes to end the Cowboys’ season at 23-7, while NEO advances to Saturday’s championship game against the winner of Redlands Community College and Northern Oklahoma-Tonkawa.
The third overtime was indicative of the entire game.
Connors’ Derrick Fry was fouled on a 3-point shot with 1.7 seconds left by Quan Jones. He sank all three attempts. Just four ticks earlier (5.5 seconds), Corey Baldwin was sent to the free- throw line for three attempts after missing a shot from behind the arc. Baldwin missed all three attempts.
NEO went to the line 40 times draining 29, while Connors was 23-of-33 at the stripe. NEO was whistled 26, and Connors 33 times.
“I really think the officiating was really inconsistent,” said Connors coach Bill Muse. “Those two calls at the end, I don’t think it should have gone into overtime. We should have won it in the first overtime, if we didn’t win it in regulation.
“We just didn’t have any bodies left in a five-overtime game. It was a great game for the fans, but not so great for the coaches. We had our chances in every overtime. Our bench fought as hard as they could, but we just came up short.”
Connors trailed by 15 points in the first half, but battled back to trail by only one at the intermission, 35-34. In the final 20 minutes of regulation, the clubs battled to a 72-all deadlock. Connors had an opportunity to win at the buzzer, but Jones’ layup rolled off the rim as time expired.
Willie Atwood, who finished with 16 points, played much of the final half with four fouls, before leaving the game with his fifth with 59 seconds remaining in the first overtime.
The first overtime was tied three times before Ervin, who scored 19 points, sent it to overtime No. 2 at 80-all on a putback following an Eric Broadnax missed free throw. During the overtime Devonte Robinson picked up his fifth foul and left the game with 12 points.
The fireworks continued in the second overtime when NEO sent it to a third OT. Connors led 89-86 with 1.7 seconds left when Fry was fouled on a 3-point attempt by Jones, his fifth of the game. Jones led the Cowboys’ scoring with 21 points.
Fry went to the line draining all three for a third overtime at 89-all. In the third overtime it was more back and forth before the Cowboys took a 94-93 lead with 1:57 left. After missed shots by both, NEO’s Christian Leach drained 12 footer for a 96-94 Norse lead with 48 seconds remaining. But Ervin tied it sending it the fourth overtime.
Darryl Levert gave Connors a 103-101 lead at the 2:56 mark, but NEO tied it at 103 on a bucket by Erikk Wright at 2:35. Leach then connected on one-of-two free throws to put NEO back on top, but the lead was short lived as CSC’s Ronnie Boyce, who finished with 18 points, connected on a 12-foot jumper to give the Cowboys a 105-104 lead.
NEO sent it to a fifth overtime when Terrence Clemens connected on one-of-two free throws with 10.7 seconds left. Connors made a turnover with 3.7 seconds left.
After 60 minutes of basketball the clubs exchanged buckets before it was tied at 113 with 1:39 left. Leach scored at the 1:06 mark for a115-113 NEO lead. Connors came right back to tie it on a drive to the basket by Terrance Carroll.
However, once again, Leach, who led the NEO attack with 30 points, scored with 9.5 seconds left and was fouled on the play by Carroll, his fifth. Leach missed the charity, but CSC’s final shot missed its mark.