Connors State will return to the NJCAA National Tournament with both the automatic bid for winning the Oklahoma Collegiate Athletic Conference title and the Region II crown after holding off Northern Oklahoma College – Tonkawa, 69-64, at St. Gregory University on Saturday, March 11, 2017.
“I think it’s great to go back with both titles,” said Connors State Cowboys men’s head basketball coach Bill Muse. “Our guys worked hard for it. I thought we played a very well the first half and we let them out of the gate the second half. They (Northern Oklahoma College – Tonkawa) have a resilience that they don’t stop. They just keep on coming and playing hard play-after-play.”
It was Connors State’s, (26-6), eighth Region II Championship under Cowboys’ head coach Bill Muse, who will be making his ninth trip to Hutchinson, Kansas on March 20-25, in his 25 seasons in leading the program. It will be the college’s twelfth appearance in the NJCAA National Tournament.
Connors held a 35-24 point lead at the half behind the double-digit scoring of Adarius Avery, the tournament’s MVP with 22 points and Chris Crawford, who was also named to the all-tournament team and Rashawn Langston with 11 points each.
“I don’t have words to describe this,” said Avery. “We had a point to prove today. We wanted to win it all.”
However, the second half wasn’t what Muse wanted. The Mavericks held the Cowboys scoreless on their first six offensive possessions to tie the game at 35-35 with 15:34 remaining.
“I was concerned when we didn’t score,” said Muse. “I knew they would make a run at some point. But we were able to hang on and hang on- and then finally our sophomores were able to make plays at the end, “said Muse.
Bill Muse Jr. knocked down a 3-point shot to stop the Connors bloodletting to put them up three before Braydon Powell gave the Cowboys a five-point bulge 40-35 with 13:39 remaining.
But the Mavericks came back to take the lead 62-61 on a shot by Kolton Stacy with 2:20 remaining.
The Cowboys then scored six unanswered points for a 67-62 advantage with 49 seconds remaining.
Mavericks’ Reggie Scurry, who led NOC’s scoring with 22 points, drained a shot from behind the arc cutting the margin to three points, 67-64 with 43 ticks on the clock.
Connors then committed a turnover with 15 seconds left and the Cowboys’ Rashawn Langston trailing the play blocked the Mavericks 3-point attempt by Devontee Dean.
“I was behind on the play and I thought I was fouled on the play,” said Langston. “They were down three and he was wide open and I knew he was going to shoot it. I just took my shot at blocking it and it gave us the win. Now we are regional champions and it’s on to Hutch, “said Langston
The ball was recovered by Avery, who was fouled with seven tenths left on the clock. Avery drained both free throws for the final count.