BARTLESVILLE, Okla. - Last year it was too much Sam Belt in the Lone Star Conference Tournament championship and a buzzer beating 3-pointer by Eric Cazenave in the regional finals at Wisdom Gym.
This year — déjà vu.
Central Oklahoma ended the Tarleton State Texans’ basketball season for the third consecutive year by sending them home from the Lone Star Conference Tournament following a 77-76 overtime loss to the Bronchos at Bruin Field House on Thursday.
“I want to give God the glory for this season,” said Tarleton head coach Lonn Reisman. “These kids have fought hard all year and I want to praise him for everything that has happened to make this basketball team a better team and a better group of individuals. It was a very hard fought, tough basketball game. I would like to give Central Oklahoma much praise. I’m proud of my kids. I’m proud of the way they battled in the last month. It says a lot about their character and the type of people they are.”
This time, it took five extra minutes for the Texans, 18-10, and the No. 10 Bronchos, 24-4, to decide the winner.
Central went on a 14-4 run to erase a 10-point Tarleton lead with 8:25 remaining in regulation to force overtime at 64-64.
In the extra period, Tarleton started with back-to-back 3-balls by Effran Bryant and Cortney Hill, and after a UCO bucket, Marlin Cloudy added a trey of his own.
UCO added a free throw and Adam Terneus missed a 3-bomb that rebounded by Bryant, which appeared to give Tarleton control of the contest.
Eric Williams couldn’t’ connect on the only free throw Tartleton attempted in the overtime, however, and Terneus connected from deep to bring UCO within two at 73-71.
Hill would be called for a travel on the next Texan possession, then Williams committed his fifth foul, sending Lance Harper to the line. Harper hit one of two to make it a one-point affair.
Cazenave came away with a steal and passed it ahead to Harper, who missed the wide open layup, but David Thomas was right there for the go-ahead put back.
With just over 15 seconds left, Cloudy missed a 3-pointer and Harper pulled down the board and went to the line, where he missed two shots.
Jeremiah Wilson got the rebound and dribbled to mid-court where he was called for charging against Cazenave that gave the ball right back to the Bronchos.
“We had a lot of opportunities tonight, but you can’t turn the ball over at crucial times,” said Reisman.
Reisman was whistled for a technical arguing the charging call, and Cazenave sank a pair of free shots for a 3-point lead.
Thomas got the ball back off the inbounds pass and was fouled, where he sank one shot to put the game out of reach for UCO.
Wilson drained a half court buzzer beater, but it was too little, too late as Central Oklahoma ended Tarleton’s season yet again.
The Bronchos advance to face Southwestern Oklahoma State in the semifinals at noon on Saturday.
Tarleton led this one most of the way before the UCO comebacks.
Central Oklahoma put the first points on the board when Thomas connected on a 3-point play the old fashioned way, but Cloudy answered with a 3-point bomb to tie it up.
After Lance Harper gave the Bronchos a momentary lead at 5-3, Hill drained a jumper that started a 9-0 Tarleton run to give the Texans a 12-5 advantage with 14:47 left to play in the first half.
After a Thomas 3-pointer, Hill answered with a free throw and a jumper to maintain the Texans’ seven-point advantage with 12:24 to go.
Following the Hill jumper, Tarleton went without a point over the next 3:22 until Wale Ogunoye banked one in from the paint.
Over that span, UCO scored six points to bring the score to 15-14 in favor of the Texans.
The Ogunoye bucket started a 10-2 run by Tarleton to stretch the lead to 25-16 with 5:14 to play.
Over the final 4:35 of the opening half, UCO outscored Tarleton 13-8 on the strength of 6-8 shooting from the charity stripe.
Tarleton, however, maintainted a 33-29 edge at the break.
At halftime Cloudy led the Texans with 14 points, with nine coming from beyond the arc.
Tarleton stretched its lead to seven out of the break, leading 40-33.
Central Oklahoma would cut the Tarleton edge to one at 44-43, then Bryant went off, connecting on nine of the next 11 Tarleton points.
Hill would follow up with a trey of his own to take a 10-point lead at 58-48, before the game-tying run.
Tarleton battled foul trouble all night, with Monquel Pegues, Williams and Ogunoye all having four fouls at one time.
“We were trying to do some double-teaming, which we did. It was very successful, but it’s hard to be aggressive when you have three players with four fouls,” said Reisman.
Central went to the free throw line 45 times in the game, compared to Tarleton’s 13, and 31 of those attempts came in the second half and overtime, while Tarleton went only six times in those two periods.
“It’s the old Bill Parcells adage, ‘It is, what it is’,” said Reisman about the fouls.
“I feel hurt. This was a big game and my team played hard. I feel like the referees took it over. They didn’t let us play.,” said Williams.
Bryant led the team with 19 points on the strength of six 3-point bombs, tying Stephan Sheckles' 1997 mark for most 3-pointers by a Texan in LSC Tournament play.
“He plays with a lot of heart,” said Reisman about Bryant. “He’s a very courageous young man who played tremendously this year. He’s a very dedicated young man. I’m very proud of the way he’s matured in our program. He’s done a great job for us.”
Cloudy posted 17 in his final game as a Texan, while Hill added 13.
Tarleton will hit the offseason without Williams, Pegues, Cloudy, Kenneth Cage and Jean-Marc Melchoir, who played in their final game with Tarleton.
“My seniors are tremendous men,” said Reisman. “They are the kind of men who are role models for kids. Basketball is important to them, but there is a bigger picture than basketball. I told them that this is going to hurt tonight, but there are also people sitting in the emergency room or Cook County Hospital with leukemia, and there are kids dying. You have to take this world in perspective. We work hard, try to do the best job we can, but if I’ve taught them anything, I don’t care if I’ve taught them basketball, I want to teach them what life is about, to be good Christian men, work hard and be people that can go out and help others.”
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