Hillcats Force Evangels Exit in SAC Tournament
SHAWNEE, Okla. – The No. 6-seed Rogers State Hillcats delivered the second upset of the Sooner Athletic Conference Tournament Quarterfinals as RSU topped the third-seeded Mid-America Christian Evangels, 87-83, Thursday inside Noble Complex.
After trailing for nearly 11 minutes of play, a pair of free throws by Robinson Odoch Opong trimmed the Evangels lead to78-77 with 3:07 remaining. After a three-point miss by MACU’s Charlie Shorter, Alex Ewings found J.C. Hartlzer for a lay-up on the offensive end to give the Hillcats a 79-78 advantage with just 2:38 to go.
RSU would lead over the next two minutes before a pair of free throws by the Evangels marked the eighth tie of the game. Donald Williams was sent to the line after a defensive foul by MACU and the senior guard connected on both shots from the charity stripe to give RSU the lead at 85-83 with 13 seconds remaining.
Shorter, the SAC Player of the Year, missed on a three-pointer with five seconds remaining. Williams was fouled on the inbounds pass and the Baton Rouge, La. native hit the pair of free throws as RSU won 87-83.
After MACU scored first to start the game the Hillcats would lead the majority of the first half with the Evangels tying the game five times in the opening stanza including at the break 38-38.
MACU’s Shorter finished with 25 points to lead all scorers but the senior guard made just 9-of-25 from the field.
“I think it’s pretty simple, I say simple but Alex (Ewings) was our MVP of the game. It’s not what he brought to the offensive end,” said RSU head coach Justin Barkley. “He was guarding the league player of the year. I’ve seen it for four year, (Shorter) is smooth, he can really make shots for himself and doesn’t need a lot of room to get a shot off. Alex made him work for every possession.”
Camilo Valencia added 15 points while Yuri Hager finished with 11 points as the two squads both pulled down 40 rebounds each.
RSU’s Opong totaled 23 points while Williams finished with 20 points as the two shot 12-of-15 from the free throw stripe.
In just 19 minutes of play while battling foul trouble, Ken Holdman finished with 14 points for the Cats.
“Ken Holdman scrapped, I’m sitting here looking at how many minutes he played, he never got in the flow,” explained Barkley. “Nineteen minutes it didn’t feel like he played that much to be honest with you. He just had a hard time getting in the flow but when he was in he was a productive point guard.”
Justynn Hammond dropped in 12 points and Ewings finished with 11 as RSU shot 80 percent from the charity stripe, including hitting 22-of-26 in the second half at the line.
Rogers State (21-10, 8-8) will face No. 7-seed Oklahoma City at 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 1 inside the Noble Complex after the Stars upset host Oklahoma Baptist earlier Thursday, 64-60. RSU Radio 91.3FM will broadcast the contest with live video streaming available on the Hillcat Network at www.rsuhillcats.com/live and www.rsuradio.com.