By Bruce Campbell, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
Christa Beasler, playing her final home game, scored 23 points as Northern Oklahoma College Enid clinched the top seed for the women’s Region 2 championships with a 73-53 win over Murray State at the Mabee Center Wednesday.
Jeremy Espinoza, playing his last home game, had 23 points as the NOC Enid men clinched a first-round bye for the playoffs with a 56-54 win over the Aggies. A 3-pointer by Murray State’s Timothy Smallwood was waived off at the buzzer.
The Lady Jets (21-7, 14-3) and Jets (20-9, 10-7) travel to Carl Albert tonight for the final Oklahoma Collegiate Athletic Conference game of the season.
NOC Enid’s women can clinch the title outright with a win over Carl Albert (6-11). The Jets can finish no worst than a tie for fourth with a win over the Vikings (1-15).
Beasler was joined in double figures by Regan Crowl with 16, Chelsea Bates with 14 and Shannon Hough with 11. Murray State (13-4) came into the game tied with NOC Enid for the league lead.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the girls,’’ said NOC Enid coach Scott Morris, whose team suited up only eight players. “They have worked so hard. My assistant coaches Kate (Mahoney) and Joshua (White) have done an unbelievable job on the behind the scenes stuff that make us better.’’
The Lady Jets were 13 of 22 from the field in racing off to a 38-26 halftime lead. They outscored the Aggies 18-6 over the last 10:20 of the half. Beasler had 14 points at intermission.
Crowl (4) and Beasler (3) combined for seven treys. Bates was effective driving to the basket.
“We’re starting to play well together,’’ Morris said. “With all of our illness and injuries, we never have had a consistent rotation. We’re getting some consistency (in the lineup) even though our numbers are down. People are starting to figure out what we need from them and they are beginning to become assertive and it’s paying off. Our offense has been as good as it’s been all year.”
NOC ENID 56, MURRAY STATE 54 (M)
The Jets survived an early 12-0 Aggies blitz to get the win. Dalen Qualls, another sophomore, had 14 points.
“We were pretty ugly at the beginning of the game,’’ Espinoza said. “That really hurt us. We had to battle the whole way.’’
Murray State scored the game’s last seven points after Espinoza had given the Jets a 56-47 lead with a trey with 2:24 left.
Connor Brooks missed the front-end of a one-and-one with 4.7 seconds left, but the Aggies were a split second off on what would have been a game-winning shot by Smallwood, who led Murray State with 18 points.
“I knew it was a late shot,’’ Espinoza said. “I wasn’t too worried about it.’’
Espinoza had three treys and battled inside as the Jets didn’t let the Aggies control the boards as they did in a 74-66 win at Tishomingo Jan. 21.
“Shamburg (head coach Brad) and Mahoney (assistant Ryan) told me to rebound,’’ Espinoza said. “I stepped up a little. It got a little physical out there, but this was a good way for the sophomores to go out in their last game. We left everything on the court.’’
The Jets didn’t score until a field goal by Qualls approximately five minutes into the game. They outscored the Aggies 31-11 over the final 15 minutes.
“I started out slow,’’ said Espinoza, who had 14 points in the second half, “but I got into it as the game went on. I just want to thank everyone who has supported us the last two years.’’